Two Ways to Dry Fresh Peppermint Leaves
Dry fresh peppermint leaves for tea and beauty
I have several patches of peppermint growing at home and though I occasionally use it for tea, most of it is now been delegated for use in my handmade Peppermint & Sea Kelp soap. It’s merrily prolific but downright invasive so I try to keep it growing in containers for the most part. I’d recommend that for you too because when this herb is given space it can take over large patches of your garden.
Though there are many reasons that you should try to use fresh herbs, even in the case of making peppermint tea, drying the herbs preserves them for times when it’s not available in the garden. Herbs dried carefully can preserve the flavour, colour, and essential oils of the plant for months to come. It’s also very easy to do and you can successfully dry mint, and other herbs, in both a food dehydrator or in an oven.
When to Harvest Peppermint
Drying peppermint is easy, whether you too want to use it in your own beauty products or simply to have some on hand for culinary purposes. First you have to grow a lot of it because it does reduce in volume when its dried. Pick your mint in the morning, before the sun has a chance to evaporate away essential oils, and just take swathes of stems and leaves at this point. Mint can be harvested at anytime of the year but the rule with harvesting herbs for drying is to take the plant material when it’s at its prime which happens to be when its flowering.
What happens during the drying process
There’s a good deal of moisture in mint leaves so the drying process will leave you with much less than you started with. I’d estimate that it reduces down to around 1/8th the original size and maybe even a little less than that – you can see the difference between what you begin with and what you end with in the two pictures in the ‘Oven Method’ section below.
Whichever method you use to dry your mint, when it is fully dry, pulse it with a stick blender to make it more compact and easy to store. Store it in sealed containers and store them in a cool and dark place to make it last at least a year.
Food Dehydrator Method
Pick your peppermint, rinse it with cool water, and allow to dry. Next, pluck the leaves from the stems and place them in a thin layer on the racks of your food dehydrator. The one I use is from Stockli and can be found here on Amazon.co.uk: Stockli Timer Dehydrator with Steel Mesh Trays. In the USA, I recommend this food dehydrator.
Dry at 40°C/105°F for three to five hours or until the leaves are brittle and crumble when rolled between your fingers. Allow to fully cool down before you store the dried peppermint in jars.
Oven Drying Method
After you’ve gathered a sizeable amount make sure to wash and dry it thoroughly. Then lay it over a lined baking sheet and heat it into the oven at 40°C/105°F until you’re sure it’s completely dry. It takes about an hour with a convection oven but can take over double that time with a conventional appliance.
The mint will initially wilt and lie in sodden heaps on the tray so if you turn the mint over a few times during the drying process you can reduce the time somewhat. Opening the oven will also release moisture so make sure to do so fairly regularly.