How to Harvest Mint Without Killing The Plant

Want a substantial mint harvest that doesn’t leave your plant knocking on death’s door? This guide for harvesting mint will show you how to harvest mint without killing the plant, so you can enjoy its delicious flavor all season long. You will learn the best way to pick mint, optimal time to harvest mint, and how much mint to harvest at a time to ensure you leave healthy plants behind.

While it’s important to prune your mint regularly to keep it under control, it’s also important to harvest it properly to ensure a lasting mint harvest.

A Few Notes About Mint

Mint is a popular herb that’s easy to grow and adds a burst of fresh flavor to a variety of dishes. Its scientific name is Mentha, and it belongs to the Lamiaceae family. Mint is a hardy perennial plant that can grow in a wide range of USDA growing zones, from zone 3 to zone 11. It prefers well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 and needs to be watered regularly to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Mint grows best in partial shade, but can also tolerate full sun as long as it gets enough water. From planting to maturity, mint typically takes about 8-10 weeks to reach a harvestable size. To encourage bushier growth, pinch off the tips of the stems once the plant reaches a height of about 4 inches. With a little bit of care and maintenance, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of fresh and flavorful mint all season long! As a bonus, mint makes a great companion plant, deterring pests and attracting beneficial pollinators such as butterflies and parasitic wasps with its showy purple flowers.

It is a good idea to contain mint in ground level containers in order to prevent it from spreading and competing with other plants for water, nutrients, and space.

My Favorite Mint Varieties 🌿

Spearmint: Spearmint is a hardy perennial that has the best flavor when it is grown in full sun. It is easy to take care of and is one of the most popular types of mint to grow.

Mojito Mint: Mojito mint has a mild mint flavor with hints of citrus. It’s large leaves make it perfect for your favorite beverages.

Chocolate Mint: Chocolate mint has deep brown stems with bright green leaves. It has subtle chocolate smells and flavors. It is my favorite type of mint to dehydrate for tea!

Apple Mint: Apple mint is a delicious and aromatic herb that smells just like fresh apples. Its sweet and refreshing flavor makes it a popular choice for adding to tea, fruit salads, and other dishes. It is widely used for medicinal teas to help with headaches and other ailments.

Ginger Mint: Ginger mint is a unique and flavorful herb that combines the spicy warmth of ginger with the refreshing coolness of mint. Its distinctive taste makes it a great addition to teas, cocktails, and other beverages.

Strawberry Mint: If you’re looking for a new twist on classic mint, you might want to try growing strawberry mint. This flavorful herb has a delicate strawberry flavor that pairs perfectly with sweet and savory dishes alike. Dehydrated strawberries pair perfectly with dehydrated strawberry mint leaves for a fruity and refreshing looseleaf tea.

Tips + Tricks For A Great Mint Harvest

  • Regularly cut mint stems back above two sections of leaves to both contain the plant and encourage it to produce fresh new shoots.
  • Use garden snips to cut the mint stem rather than ripping leaves off. Actually cutting the stem will signal the plant to send out new shoots and prevents damage to the plant that ripping may cause.
  • It is important to harvest mint before it has flower blooms- once mint plants fully flower the leaves start to lose some of their essential oil, causing the leaves to be less flavorful and fragrant.

Best Time To Harvest Mint

The time to harvest mint is in the morning, after the dew has dried. This is when the oils in the leaves are most concentrated, giving you the best minty flavor and aroma. It is important to allow your mint plant to grow to around four inches in height before beginning to harvest. Mint leaves are said to be at their peak flavor just before the flowers open up. When you notice buds forming, get your snippers out!

How To Know When Mint Is Ready To Be Picked

  • The mint plant is about 4 inches tall.
  • There are enough sets of leaves that you can leave two sections remaining after harvesting.
  • Flower buds have formed but there are no open flowers (blooms).

How Much Mint To Harvest At One Time

When it comes to harvesting mint leaves, it’s important to remember not to take too many at once or this could cause stress to your mint plant and ultimately kill it. You should only harvest up to one-third of the plant’s leaves at a time, as this will allow the plant to continue growing and producing more leaves. It’s also important to avoid taking leaves from the bottom of the plant, as these are often older and less flavorful.

How To Harvest Mint Without Killing The Plant

In order to harvest mint without killing the plant, it is important to leave at least two healthy bottom sections of leaves for the plant to continue to absorb the necessary nutrients to thrive. Make clean cuts with garden snips and cut no more than 1/3 of the plant at a time.

How To Slow Mint From Bolting

These principals for preventing mint from bolting apply to most herbs!

  1. Snip off the flower buds as soon as they emerge… cutting the stock containing the bud as low as possible.
  2. Regular pruning and harvesting encourages your mint plant to develop new shoots and leaves rather than flower buds.
  3. Plant/ transplant your herbs in cool weather to avoid stress (which leads to flower production).
  4. Regular fertilization with a high nitrogen fertilizer helps to promote lush foliage rather than flowering.

How To Store Mint

Fresh(refrigerator): If you want to keep your fresh mint leaves from wilting or going bad, refrigerating them is the way to go. To do this, I like to wrap my mint bunch in a slightly damp paper towel and then place it in a plastic bag or container. This helps to keep the mint hydrated and fresh for longer, so I can use it in my favorite recipes throughout the week. Alternatively, you can store it in a vase of water, like a bouquet of flowers, to keep it fresh for several days.

Frozen: Have an abundance of mint? Read through this simple guide to learn all about freezing fresh mint leaves to quickly infuse all of your favorite drinks and dishes. Become an expert on how to store fresh mint in the freezer in oil, in water, and in whole leaf form so that you can enjoy it all year long.

Dehydrated: Drying mint can be done in many different ways including an air fryer, oven, dehydrator, and hanging it to dry in the open air. Check out this great guide from Alpha Foodie on how to dry mint 3 ways.

Check out these other great guides on dehydrating garden favorites. 
-How To Dehydrate Onions and 5 Recipes With Dried Onions
-How To Dehydrate Rhubarb and 5 Recipes With Dried Rhubarb
-How to Dry Peppers 3 Ways (With & Without a Dehydrator)
-Everything Bagel Zucchini Chips 3 Ways: Oven, Air Fryer, Dehydrator

Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Mint

Can I snip mint blooms off of the plant?

Yes! Simply snip the flower buds before they have opened to encourage your mint plant to continue putting energy into producing leaves.

Can I eat mint flowers?

Yes! All mint flowers are edible and have a subtle, pleasant taste. They make great garnish for your favorite beverage or dessert.

Does mint grow back after cutting?

Yes, during the growing season mint will produce new shoots after being pruned. Mint is a perennial. After the growing season, mint can be cut at the base and mulched around in preparation for winter and early spring growth.

Harvest Ready Mint Recipes

Two water bottles filled with ice, lemons, and sliced strawberries.

Mint Water Infusions

Perhaps the most obvious way to use frozen mint is to put it in water with other flavorful additions such as cucumbers, lemon, blueberries, strawberries, or even ginger. Frozen whole mint leaves or mint leaves frozen in water will work perfectly in any water infusion

Watermelon salad including mint and feta chopped on a white plate.

Mint Salad

Check out this delicious mint summer salad. Full of protein and flavor, it is the perfect recipe to use up those frozen whole mint leaves. Alternatively you may want a lighter watermelon-mint salad with feta.

Pasta with mint, mushrooms and parmesan on a black stone plate.

Mint Pasta

Full of peas, mint and parm, this creamy mint pasta recipe is the perfect way to use mint frozen in oil or mint frozen in water.

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