Peppermint plays an important role when it comes to aromatic and tea herbs, but also medicinal plants. What could be nicer than a refreshing tea made from freshly harvested mint, provided it is harvested at the right time. And what if the mint blooms, is it still edible or maybe even poisonous?
Regular harvest time of mint
Basically, mint can be freshly harvested from May to September. Nevertheless, one speaks of two main harvest times for this plant.
- first main harvest, depending on the weather in May/June
- always harvest shortly before flowering or when the first flower buds are visible
- Aroma is most intense at the time of the first main harvest
- especially in the leaves
- also concentration of essential oils now highest
- After the first harvest, mint quickly sprouts new shoots
- reaches a stately size again by the next harvest
- second main harvest takes place in autumn
- usually can be harvested until frost
- The taste and aroma of the autumn harvest can be significantly weaker
- The reason for this is unfavorable weather conditions
- especially after cool and rainy summers
- Mint cannot develop a sufficient aroma
- Further processing and preservation, then usually not worthwhile
A sunny summer, on the other hand, is ideal for an autumn harvest, because then the plants can also produce essential oils. The best time of day for harvesting is late morning, the morning dew has evaporated and the midday heat is not a problem either. The yield from the autumn harvest is usually used for drying or for longer storage. Smaller amounts of the herb can also be freshly cut at any time from May to September.
Tip: If you only want to pluck individual leaves, you should be careful not to damage the stems, otherwise germs and pests could quickly settle there. Otherwise, you always cut off the entire stalk just above the ground, the mint then quickly drives up again.
What if the mint blooms?
Peppermint usually flowers from June to September. During this time, it loses a great deal of flavor and aroma. This is mainly due to the fact that the plant then puts all its energy into the peppermint flowers and the formation of the seeds, because its most important goal is large-scale propagation. Taste doesn’t play a role here and usually falls by the wayside. Nevertheless, fresh leaves can still be harvested and made into tea, they just have a slightly bland taste. However, this does not make the plant poisonous, neither the leaves and stems nor the flowers.
Peppermint flowers edible or not?
The leaves and stems as well as the peppermint flowers are edible on this plant. While the young leaves have a very fine and mild taste, the older ones taste a little more intense because they contain more essential oils. The flowers are usually milder than the green parts of the plant. The buds as well as the blossoms can be enjoyed without hesitation in a fresh tea, a homemade mint blossom butter or used as a pretty decoration that is also edible. The flowers are rather delicate and have a slightly sweet taste due to the nectar they contain. The buds, on the other hand, taste a little stronger and spicier, and they are also edible.
Tip: The more sun the plants can soak up, the more intense the taste and aroma, even if opinions on the taste and edibility of peppermint flowers differ widely.
Prune mint for regular harvest
Irrespective of whether a second harvest is made in autumn or not, it is not only recommended for reasons of plant health to prune the mint radically after flowering, even if this is not absolutely necessary.
- Cut is often referred to as a winter cut
- the lower leaves are usually already withered
- older shoots very hard and hardly usable
- Plant has invested a lot of energy in forming the flowers
- for regeneration, a little breather helpful
- strong growth, another reason for a radical pruning
- Mint not only spreads quickly and strongly above ground
- the roots also have a strong urge to spread
- can easily crowd out neighboring plants
- therefore cut back complete stems to about 5 cm above the ground
In order to prevent excessive spread, it makes sense not only to radically shorten the stems, but also the roots. Either you expose the root area and then cut them back or you stab them with a spade again and again. If you want to counteract this from the outset and prevent uncontrolled spread, you should put the mint in the ground with a suitable root barrier when planting.
Tip: An old plant pot can be sufficient as a root barrier, which you can equip with drainage holes, insert it into the ground and then plant the mint in there.
Of course, using fresh peppermint is best, because then all the important ingredients are still present in the highest possible concentration. In order to have peppermint available all year round, the alternative is to preserve it immediately after the actual harvest. You have the option of drying, freezing, pickling or otherwise processing the fresh herb in various foods, for example in pesto, syrup or jelly. Mint, which is cut for the first main harvest before flowering, is best suited for a longer shelf life.
The easiest way to dry peppermint is to harvest the stalks, tie them into small bunches of just a few sprigs, and hang them upside down to dry. If you tie too many stems together, the inside of the leaves will not be adequately ventilated, will dry less well or not at all and, in the worst case, will start to grow mold. The best place to dry is between 20 and 25 degrees, well ventilated and protected from wind and sun. Peppermint flowers that may be attached to the stems do not have to be cut off, flowering stems are no longer optimal in terms of taste and aroma anyway. It is best to use only stems without flowers for drying.
Tip: If possible, do not wash the peppermint before drying, just rub it off with kitchen paper if necessary.
All types of mint are generally suitable for freezing. Both individual leaves and complete branches including leaves can be frozen.
- If possible, do not wash the mint before freezing
- Don’t just put sprigs of mint in freezer bags and freeze
- individual branches can easily freeze to each other
- cannot be separated later
- This can be prevented, for example, by pre-freezing
- put the whole branches on a flat plate
- they should not touch anywhere
- Put it in the freezer compartment or the freezer
- then place the frozen stems in freezer bags
- Easily remove and recycle branches individually
- Pluck loose leaves from the stalks to freeze
- then chop well
- Fill the ice cube tray about two-thirds full with it
- Add water and put in the freezer
- transfer the frozen cubes to larger containers if necessary
If you then have an appetite for a hot cup of peppermint tea in winter, you take the required amount out of the freezer and simply pour boiling water over the frozen herbs. If you want to freeze this herb as an ingredient for soups or other dishes, you can freeze it in oil instead of water and later add it to the hot soup in the frozen state. Simply replace the water with oil.
Tip: Frozen herbs should generally be added to the food you want to eat when they are still frozen, as this is the best way to preserve their aroma.