With only a few more weeks left in the Ohio growing season, I’m scrambling to put up anything that’s left in our garden and right now, the mint patch outside the kitchen door is thriving! While it can and will grow in almost any soil and conditions, it’s LOVING this cooler, damp weather and has probably doubled in size in the past month. Now mint isn’t MY favorite herb, but my sweet Petunia loves a hot mug of mint tea just before bedtime, so I’m running the dehydrator overtime trying to dry as much “tea” as possible before the first hard freeze.
If you’ve never grown mint before, you need to know that it’s a bit of a mixed blessing. As I stated, it can and will grow anywhere—-and it has no respect for boundaries! Mint roots run horizontally just under the surface of the soil and will take over a bed in no time if you don’t contain it somehow. When I planted mint this spring, I took an old galvanized bucket with the bottom missing, dug a hole large enough to accommodate the bucket and deep enough that the lip of the bucket protruded aboveground just a few inches. I planted the mint inside the bucket and based on this year’s results, it’s quite happy there. The bucket will provide adequate room to grow but will prevent the roots from spreading laterally and taking over the entire bed. Clever, eh? But back to tea….
Dehydrating mint is about the easiest thing ever. You simply cut the stems early in the morning, rinse with cool water and then lay singly on your dehydrating screens. On low heat, dehydrate the mint for several days until the leaves are quite papery, then carefully strip them from the stems and place them in an air-tight container. Try to avoid crushing the leaves if you can as that releases those wonderful, volatile oils and aromas—-you want those in your tea cup, not the air!
When it comes time to make your tea, simply crush approximately a teaspoon of the tea leaves into an infuser like this one (FORLIFE Brew-in-Mug Extra-Fine Tea Infuser with Lid), allow to steep for up to 5 minutes, then remove the leaves and sweeten with a bit of honey. It’s equally delicious served iced with a handful of fresh raspberries, watermelon cubes or lemon slices. You can also sprinkle a bit of the dehydrated mint into a fresh fruit salad for an extra layer of flavor. The mint will impart a freshness and ‘brightness’ to any dish you add it to, so be creative and think outside the tea cup!