Dry peppermint leaves for tea and beauty
How to dry peppermint leaves to use in tea, beauty products, and food recipes. Methods include air-drying, using a food dehydrator or drying it in the oven
My peppermint grows from March to October but after that it dies back for the winter. After then, I have two options to keep myself stocked up over the cold months. Pot some plants up for inside or dry it to use until it starts re-growing in spring.
Herbs dried carefully can preserve the flavour, colour, and essential oils from 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. Once dried, you can use it in tea or in beauty recipes like soap.
When to Harvest Peppermint
It’s easy to dry peppermint whether you too want to use it in beauty products or have some on hand for the kitchen. Pick it in the morning before the sun has a chance to evaporate away essential oils. The rule with harvesting herbs for drying is to take the plant material when it’s at its prime. For peppermint this will be late spring for its first harvest.
You want fresh green leaves to start with. If the plant has flowers, pick them off. The best way to harvest peppermint is to cut it all the way to the ground. You can pluck the leaves off later.
If your peppermint is looking a bit tired and scruffy, it won’t be the best for drying. Cut it down to the ground, compost the leaves, and let the plant regrow. Within weeks you’ll have plenty of fresh green leaves to dry.
Rinsing and drying
Before you proceed with any of the drying methods below, make sure to clean the peppermint. It will have been outside and may have dirt, insects, and whatever else on the leaves.
Fill the sink with cool water and submerge the leaves — it’s easiest to do this if they’re still on the stem. Swish it around gently then take it out and let dry. A dish rack is the perfect place but you can also spread it out on towels in a warm, airy place. It’s better to not put it in direct sunlight though since it will wilt.
There are two main ways to air-dry peppermint. You can tie bunches of it with string and hang upside down in a warmish, dry, dim, and airy place. It could even be on a protected porch.
To keep dried leaves from scattering on the floor below, loosely tie a paper bag over the bunch. It’ll catch any bits that fall so they won’t make a mess and won’t go to waste. It will take up to two weeks for them to fully dry out. If it takes longer then the air in the room might be too humid.
Another way is to use a drying rack. There are many types out there but I have a small cloth one that I use regularly. I lightly spread the peppermint on, stems and all, and leave it there to dry. It usually takes a week for it to dry if the room is warm enough.
Food Dehydrator Method
To speed things up you can use a food dehydrator. I use mine for drying all kinds of herbs, fruit, and veggies especially if they have a high water content.
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 it in jars. Residual heat can cause condensation in the jars and that will spoil the peppermint.
Oven Drying Method
After you’ve gathered a sizeable amount make sure to rinse and dry it thoroughly. Then lay it in a thin layer over a lined baking sheet and heat it in 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.
If you pluck the leaves off first, the peppermint can dry a little quicker. You can leave it on the stem if pressed for time.
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.
This is my least favourite way to dry peppermint. It works though if you need it dried in a hurry and don’t have a food dehydrator.
Storing dried peppermint
Peppermint leaves will dry into a fraction of the size you began with. I’d estimate that it reduces down to around 1/8th the original size and maybe even a little less than that.
When the peppermint leaves are bone dry you can put it in containers to store. Some of mine is destined for tea and in that case I’ll crumble the leaves up or use a stick blender (or food processor) to finely chop them. I also store the leaves whole. They look pretty placed on top of handmade soap and can also be infused in oil whole.
Dried peppermint has a shelf-life of at least a year. After that, it tends to lose its flavour.
PS — if drying peppermint seems like too much trouble you can also freeze it. A good friend of mine buys bunches of peppermint at the farmers market, pops it in the freezer, and takes handfuls out when she makes tea.