If your garden is like mine, this is the time of year when mint takes over. In order to give my new blueberry bushes room to grow, I have to be aggressive about trimming back their minty neighbors.
Fresh mint is great for cooking, from Greek rice pilaf to mint brownies, and for mixing drinks like mint juleps and mojitos. But those recipes only require small amounts of mint. What to do with the rest of your crop?
Channel your inner Laura Ingalls Wilder and hang it from the rafters. I love pioneer stories, and one of the reasons is the self-sufficiency that pioneers had to have. I can’t can vegetables or make jam, but I can hang-dry herbs.
First, rinse the mint thoroughly. I once had to pick out tiny dandelion seeds tucked in a bunch of dried leaves–what a pain! This is also a good time to pluck off any dead or dying leaves. Then take a 6″ piece of string or yarn and tie it around the stems; there should be plenty of string dangling. Trim the ends of the mint stalks down to about 3″ past the string.
Choose a cool, dry room in your house where people are unlikely to walk face-first into a bunch of herbs. Tie both ends of a long, sturdy string (I used an 18″ drawstring from an old hoodie) to the ceiling. The beams in my sunroom are exposed, so I looped each end of the string around nail heads. Turn the bunch of herbs upside down, and tie the dangling string that is around the stems onto the longer string that’s tied to the ceiling.
Rinse and repeat until all your bunches are hung up to dry. If you want the true LIW effect, leave the herbs there all winter, only taking leaves off as you need to cook. But if you’re like me, you’ll want to harvest them after two weeks or so. I like to do this a.) because I have limited space in my sunroom, and b.) I worry about mite infestations and spider webs attaching themselves to the mint. Leave them up for at least a week, though, until the leaves are slightly crumbly to the touch.
Uses for dried mint are basically unlimited. There’s, er, cooking, and, um, mixing drinks? OK, so I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to use all this mint. But at least this way, it won’t go to waste. (I like to think Laura would be proud of this hoarding tendency.) I plan on cooking with it all winter, storing a little in a glass shaker for easy access in the kitchen.
Or I could bundle some of the leaves up in sachets for tea. I’ve also been experimenting with adding the leaves to a potpourri mix. I’ve even been using dried mint as a cat snack; Kizmet loves mint, which is, after all, a close relative to catnip.