Monday, May 14, 2012

First try at drying mint for tea

My mint pot out front is getting just a bit unruly. (Actually, I have two pots that look like this, but I can only get one in the picture at a time.) I've been harvesting the mint to flavor my cold drinks, but obviously I haven't been keeping up with it nearly well enough. The stems are long and getting woody, and there isn't enough room for new and tender growth.

I am also out of mint tea bags. I thought about it...and figured it was absolutely silly to go out and buy commercial mint tea when I had a perfectly good batch of leaves out front. I've always just used the mint fresh out of the garden, but it should be easy enough to dry some for later use as well, right?

I remember when I was a young girl, my folks volunteered on the weekends at the Miller-Cory House in New Jersey. It was a restored colonial farm house, and it had an herb garden out front. I remember being interested by the bundles of fresh herbs being hung up in the cook house to dry. I don't know if they ever actually used them, though there was often something tasty coming out of the kitchen pot. And they did smell wonderfully good. Anyway, I hunted around the web to refresh my young girl's memory on drying herbs, and headed out the front door.

I cut a nice big basket full of mint stalks, and brought them inside.

They got washed well...

...and picked over. Any leaves that I wouldn't want to eat, I figured I don't want to drink either. Browning leaves got tossed into the bag headed for the compost pile.

Then I tied some kitchen twine around the stalks.

A rummage around in the junk drawer turned up some curtain hooks that looked like they would do the trick.

Herbs are supposed to hang in a dark, dry place. I'm kind of short on those, but the window over my kitchen sink doesn't get much in the way of any sunshine coming into it. And I was never fond of the frilly little valance that was on the curtain rod there. I ditched the fabric, and hung the bunches of mint over the curtain rod. In this Arizona climate, I'm not really worried about any excess humidity from the sink.

I've got five bunches hanging (and you can't really tell that I touched the mint plants out front). These will hang until the leaves dry out and get brittle--probably a week or two, maybe less in this desert climate. Then I'll strip the leaves off of the stems and store them in mason jars until I want a cup of tea. At that point, I'll grab a tea ball and crush some leaves into it, and have myself a very organic cup of mint tea, courtesy of my own garden.

At least, that is the theory. I'll let you know how it goes in reality!

Edit: It worked beautifully! See this post:

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