While the weather has not been very inspiring for humans, it has clearly been heaven for plants as my garden has turned itself from a neat flowerbed into an urban jungle. Especially the mint has decided to launch an attack so I fought back, well armed with some secateurs. But what am I going to do with the spoils of war?
That’s a lot of fresh mint and as much as I love it, there is only so much fresh mint tea I can drink at a time. To solve this dilemma, I consulted the internet to come up with a few good ways of preserving mint leaves and tested them. Here is what I found:
1. Freezing in ice cubes
I have done this with other herbs and it has always served me well. It is especially handy for herbs that are added in small quantities to sauces or stir-fries.I try to always keep a few cubes of coriander on hand.
All this method needs is an ice cube tray, a knife, a chopping board, some water and the mint. Just chop the mint into fairly small pieces, fill the ice cube tray roughly with the chopped herb and top it up with water.
It freezes within a few hours and now you have fresh, chopped and portioned mint ready for a few months. I haven’t tried using the mint yet but I don’t really see how this could have gone wrong as I have done the exact same thing with a variety of herbs and it was always fine.I generally use herb cubes like these by just throwing them directly into whatever I am making. You could probably also defrost them in the microwave, drain and just use the herbs itself if the water is a problem.
2. Freeze directly
I have used this method for parsley where I just took an entire bunch, stuck it into a freezer bag and froze the whole thing. Because the Parsley is so bushy, it doesn’t freeze into a massive lump. Instead, the frozen leaves become very brittle so I just crumble some into my sauce/salad/stir-fry and save myself the chopping.
With the mint, I had taken the leaves of the stems already and I think just making a bunch would take up the majority of my freezer space anyway so I just stuck some into a box and froze them like that. A few hours later I grabbed a few of the now frozen leaves to test if they are still good for tea. I’m glad to report that they are. Pouring boiling water over a handful frozen leaves and leaving it to stew for a few minutes produced a lovely fresh mint tea. I think as long as the leaves are not packed to densely, getting them back out of the box should not be a problem.
3. Drying in the Microwave
I read about this somewhere and the technique seemed fairly easy. It promised that layering a few leaves between kitchen towels and microwaving them for 1-2 minutes produces perfectly dried leaves in no time at all.
I wasn’t very convinced by the result. The leaves lost virtually all their flavour, the process smelled funny and it is a pain to set up if you have a large number of leaves. Thumbs down from me.
4. Drying in the Oven
I thought this was a fairly safe method because it is so common. All it requires one to do is to distribute the leaves thinly on a tray, stick them in the oven at a low temperature and leave them for a few hours.
As this seemed a safe method, I put the vast majority of my leaves into it. That was a mistake. While the resulting dried leaves looked like one would expect, something went wrong. When I used the dried result to make tea, it smelled disgusting and tasted even worse. I have no idea why. Maybe I have the wrong kind of mint in the garden, or maybe the temperature was too high. Whatever the reason, I’m not trying this again.
5. Drying by hanging them up in bunches
This seems like another safe method. Unfortunately, I only thought of this once I had lovingly picked all the leaves off the stems. I do however have plenty more of that stuff in the garden so I might be starting another attempt soon. Until then I will be enjoying the fresh tea directly from the garden.