We all know that mint is an easy to grow herb and perfect for anyone who loves a decent cup of herbal tea! But it was when I was putting together a Mojito lovers planter that I got to thinking about all of the other uses for mint leaves! I thought I would share my favourites with you to try.
The Mint family (Lamiaceae) is large and varied but we are looking primarily at the Mentha aromatic herbs. Those that have a typically spearmint taste and aroma. When we look at the mentha mints we will consider around a dozen true varieties of mentha that in some cases have been further hybridized by surrounding mints.
You can use mint leaves in four main categories; culinary, medicinal, companion planting and as a beauty treatment. Some of these do overlap, as eating mint, even in cocktail form has health benefits! So let’s get stuck in and start enjoying our mint plants!
How To Use Fresh Mint Or Dried
Fresh mint can be used once pinched off from fresh new growth or you can take a stalk and strip it between two fingers and your thumb. Hold the stalk by the fresh growth and run your fingers and thumb down backwards. This will remove the leaves with as little disturbance as possible.
If you then want to dry the leaves individually that works well for mint in the oven, microwave or dehydrator. If you are hanging to dry keep the leaves on the stem until they are fully dried.
Use the Oven to Dry Mint Leaves
Set the leaves onto a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper to line it. Arrange the leaves in a single layer and set the oven to the lowest temperature. Pop the tray in with the door to the oven ajar. Do not leave the kitchen while this is happening. This should take around half an hour and the leaves should be papery to the touch when they are dried. If not leave them in a bit longer, but set the timer and keep an eye on it as it is very much a waiting game and burnt leaves happen in a blink of an eye.
Use the Microwave to Dry Mint in 60 seconds
Just the quickest way and mint really does hold its taste and aroma. Lay the leaves out flat on a microwave proof plate. Put to the highest temperature and blast for 45 seconds. Check on the leaves at this stage and if needed give then an extra 5 seconds at a time. It depends how much water they have had that day and how hot the garden has been, but it shouldn’t take more than 60 seconds. The leaves will be papery to the touch, but wait until they have cooled before storing them.
Using a Dehydrator To Dry The leaves
Set your dehydrator to herbal and lay the leaves out individually on the tray, put the timer for an hour. Keep checking on them as your home will smell gorgeous but you wont know if they are too dry. They may need a little longer but don’t be tempted to just put it on for a few hours and walk away. For a free full guide to drying herbs using a dehydrator have a look here.
Hanging Mint Stems To Dry Them
Start by cutting stalks at around 10-12 inches in length. Choose stems that are not in bloom and have not buds forming. ‘Tie’ about 15 stalks together with an elastic band loosely. This way the air will dry the leaves in between each stem. Hang them in a dark but airy location where fear of damp is not present. The stems will need about 2-4 weeks depending on the location. Check on them for signs of mold or excess dust developing. Then you can take the leaves off and use the stalks for something else!
Are There Any Uses For Dried Mint Stalks?
We use ours for fire starters in the garden. It gives off a really intense scent to begin with and deters flying pests around the fire pit in the evenings. You can also use your stalks in chickens runs to give them something to dig around, we mix in our dried lavender stems as well as rosemary. This way it gives a freshness to their enclosures.
You can also use them in cocktails to skewer an olive or two! Very posh and a little over the top for most occasions!
I would not add fresh mint cuttings to my compost bin, but when they are dried I can, so they are biodegradable at this point. When you add them fresh they will tend to survive and take root in the compost bin, meaning you then have runners living in there and not decomposing.
Uses For Mint In Cooking
- Using mint leaves in herb butter. Mint butter is quick and easy to make. Although mint is a perennial it does grow best in the heat of the Summer. Harvest as many leaves as you can then, do this by pinching out new growth. Then you can rinse under water and pat dry with paper towel. Take a block of unsalted butter, 250g to 1 cup of mint leaves. Chop the leaves down and mix in the softened butter. Next roll in cling film (I have yet to find a more eco-friendly way but you can buy recyclable cling film) roll into a tight sausage about the diameter of a shot glass. Make sure it is relatively even all over the length. You can then freeze as a roll and take out to slice off as and when you need it. By putting it into the freezer you massively extend its’ self life and the mint will stay fresh for months. Mint goes well with so many foods, but a knob of butter melted over new potatoes is still a treat!
- Mint sauce is a winner for Sunday lunch. Having the mix of the mint with the vinegar to really elevate it is something to savour. We go a bit rogue and use a mix of mint varieties, so here is our method for you to try. Take a cup of mint leaves add a pinch of salt, chop roughly – a good one for the kids to do as a mixture of sizes works well here. Add 1 tablespoon of castor sugar and four tablespoons of boiled water. Cool and then add 4 tablespoons of vinegar. We use cider vinegar, but white wine vinegar or even standard vinegar works just as well. You can make this a few days in advance and keep it in a sealed kilner jar in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
- peppermint thins are fun to make with peppermint oil. We love this recipe from sallysbakingaddiction.com and when we make these we like to use some of the melted chocolate to cover fresh leaves of mint. Mix this up as well as using peppermint try using Chocolate Mint Leaves instead! Or even Strawberry Mint which genuinely tastes like strawberries and mint together!
- oil infusion can be a difficult one to do with fresh mint. Be very careful with oil infusions using fresh herbs as without properly treating with an acidity regulator the bacteria that causes botulism can breed. So to get around this massive issue. First dry your mint leaves out. Then clean out suitable jars like these Kilner Jars from Dobies online store. We put them through the dishwasher and then dry them out thoroughly. Put into each jar between 2-3 tablespoons of dried mint leaves, use your discretion here as we like a stronger taste! Then heat olive oil to 180 degrees Celsius. Use the best quality olive oil that you can afford here. Pour the warmed oil into the jars and seal. You can use these for up to three months from making, store in the fridge once opened.
- mojito is a classic cocktail! You can easily make little mocktails up for the kids or for alcohol free friends. Use all sorts of mint to make these interesting and give a little twist to the classic. You will need to make a muddle first. This is where you crunch the mint leaves with sugar and a little lime juice. This recipe from BBC Good Food is a really good basis to follow. You then get to have fun by using different mint leaves in this. If you use a good nursery then the list will be full!
- mint julep is a classic bourbon drink with a muddle of mint.
- mint tea is a very simple herbal tea to make. Why not make it more interesting with throwing in some fennel as well to make it a bit more invigorating?
- Mint ice cubes are great in summer drinks and will add extra flavour whilst melting.
Medicinal Uses For Mint
- General Nutritional Content! Mint is packed with potassium, magnesium, calcium, Iron, Vitamin C and Vitamin A. Realistically though you are not going to eat the quantities required to make a real impact in your diet. Unless you start adding leaves by the handful to your daily diet. But you can incorporate more mint into your diet in salads, smoothies, in yoghurt at breakfast time or in herbal teas.
- As a mouthwash mint may help to mask bad breathe. However it wont act as a way to reduce the causes of bad breathe and perhaps a visit to the dentist would be a better long term solution.
- The menthol aroma of peppermint mean that we closely associate mint with alleviating cold and flu symptoms. Whereas this may just be a common connection with the medicines we take and their use of peppermint oil. However hanging a bunch of fresh mint in the shower will help to release the essential oils and that combined with the steam can help act as a decongestant. Similarly using an essential oil diffuser to add moisture to the air can help act as a decongestant with the steam and peppermint oil combining. Real caution needs to be exercised when using peppermint oil and a diffuser as it can be thought to bring on asthma attacks in sufferers.
- Peppermint Oil is used to reduce IBS symptoms. Our own NHS recommends taking peppermint oil orally in the form of capsules. If you are not in the UK you will be able to purchase peppermint oil capsules from health food stores.
- For skin irritations including sun burn or pain associated with breast feeding. Simply make up a herbal tea with the mint and then freeze in ice cubes. Use a cotton pad to apply to the affected area. It can reduce the inflammation and relieve the associated pain of cracked skin.
- Replacing caffeinated drinks with herbal teas can help to reduce stress and anxiety. There are numerous studies between the links of gardening and mindfulness. So what better way to combine these two effects and grow your own mint?
How To Use Mint In The Garden
- companion planting mint can be very successful. But go carefully here and do not plant mint in the same pots of other shrubs. Mint is very invasive and will suffocate other plants very quickly. But you can plant in pots and move to support other herbs and vegetables. This way the natural repellent aroma will deter pests from feasting on your more tender plants.
- growing in pots. When you grow mint in pots it means that you can move it around the garden and use it to help create a more secluded spot. We grew a herbal tea garden with a seating area that we now use to drink our teas in! Certain mint varieties will grow to around a metre in height and therefore can create a little spot of solitude from the neighbors watchful gaze.
- Uses for peppermint to create bug repellent spray for evenings out in the garden. You can make up teas with 4 parts tea to one part vinegar. Then use a small spray bottle to mist over the top of the fire in the evening.
- In the nesting boxes of your chickens coop. You can use the dried leaves and stalks in the runs as a bug repellent, but the fresh leaves work very well in the nesting box too. We make up a lot of different mixes of fresh herbs depending on the time of year.
Uses For Mint In Your Homemade Spa
- mint body scrub can be a great gift and uses include for dried skin, but also just to exfoliate. Very simple to make in your homemade spa and a great one for young teenagers! Mix a handful of mint leaves with 1/2 cup of coconut oil and 1/4 cup raw castor sugar. You can mix the sugar with granulated 50:50 then you get a different texture. Store in a sealed jar and it will last for a few weeks, but it is so easy to scale this recipe down to enough for one scrub! Just mix those ingredients together and apply to your skin. Perfect for a morning routine.
- Mint hanging sprigs in the shower is a great way to release those essential oils without getting leaves down your plug hole! Let’s just be practical for a moment, all of these wonderful bath bombs are so luxurious, until you also have to clean out the drains. So why not hang a bunch in the bath room and let the steam from the shower release the essential oils that will wake you up in the morning? A wonderful pick me up in the middle of winter.
- Peppermint bath bomb, using essential oils so no ‘bits’ to clean up! There is a wonderful recipe we follow from a pumpkin and a princess, you will love it! The only slight change we use silicon molds and not the plastic ones, it is easier to get them out if you slightly over dry the bombs!
- Mint tea for the bath? Create a minty soak by steeping mint leaves in boiled water for ten minutes. Add this to your bath and enjoy an enlivening soak. Really good for those evenings after too much sun in the garden. Uses also include as a restorative to give you new energy! Perky mint can really pick up your senses.
- Uses for mint as a hair wash have become very popular in our home! Make up the tea and mix with 50% cider vinegar to 50% mint tea. Then spritz through your hair until it is wet and leave on for a few minutes. Rinse clean and you will have shiny hair. The smell from the vinegar evaporates so you can just leave on. Spritz hair before using heat to it and it will act as a protection too.
However many uses you can find for mint, just get growing! You can’t go wrong with mint and they bees will love you for it if you let them flower as well! Just be careful to not let it take over your garden! Keep it in pots.
You may also like to read our article on using basil in recipes, fresh or dried. There are some yummy surprises in there too!