Harvesting fresh mint to add to your tea, mojito, or food is a blessing. But, can you harvest your mint without killing?
To harvest mint without killing your plant, you must avoid using your fingers to harvest and should definitely harvest small amounts if your mint plant is small or not very established.
Mint plants and peppermint plants may appear hardy, rebounding after every harvest. However, harvesting correctly without damaging the plant will increase its lifespan and the quality of mint leaves you would harvest in the future.
Mint harvesting tip- You should harvest new mint growth (green stems) as supposed to those leaves that are on brown stems (older growth). The reason is the older growth is less flavorful and harder to harvest.
What Tools to Use For Harvesting Mint Without Killing the Plant?
Harvesting incorrectly can damage and possibly kill your mint plant regardless of how hardy it is. That’s why you need to harvest it properly, harvesting it properly requires the right tools!
Tools required to harvest mint plants properly include a pair of small precise garden scissors or very sharp garden shears.
Yet to plant mint or just planted it? Read this: Is Mint a creeper?
Step-By-Step Guide to Harvest Mint Without Killing It
Here’s every step you need to take to not kill mint while harvesting.
- Observe your mint plant and pinpoint the young shoots that usually appear as small leaves on green stems. Young shoots usually sit at the top of the plant, i.e the tallest shoots.
- Identify how much mint to harvest.
- Using a sterile tool, clip the leaves off just where they attach to the stem. Sterilizing the tool ensures bacteria do not infect the plant at the newly created entry sites.
- If you lack the tools, you can use your hands. Make sure your hands are washed. Nip the leaves from the middle of the stem. The incision must be made when your thumbnail makes contact with the flesh of your forefinger.
- Harvest equally throughout the plant to ensure even growth.
- Nipping the mint’s young growth should induce shooting by channeling energy towards growth.
- Once harvested, wash, use or store the mint leaves.
- Water the plant and keep it in partial sun to avoid it dehydrating and wilting after harvesting.
- Time your next harvest carefully to prevent fatally damaging your mint.
Mint harvesting tip- Using dirty hands or tools can introduce bacteria to the newly incised areas that act as a point of entry for germs. This risks infection and possibly death as well!
Harvest Mint After Enough Time- Not Too Early!
Mint benefits from pinching back/harvesting.
Harvesting encourages new shoots to emerge at a faster rate. But, if you go ahead with butchering the plant, the chances of the plant not recovering or dying are greater.
Allow enough time for your plant to recuperate. It should visually appear bigger than it did the last time you harvested.
Plus, harvesting your mint while it is still a juvenile plant is practically accepting to kill it.
Harvesting Your Mint This Way May Kill It!
Invasive and rough harvesting will harm your mint plant as it leaves your mint plant damaged and at risk of dying! Thus, you need to know what not to do and why.
Never harvest mint by picking leaves or by pulling individual leaves or complete stems as this may kill the plant.
These are a few reasons why harvesting mint this way may kill it:
- Pulling leaves can damage the stems and possibly uproot the plant
- Plucking damages leaves and creates large sites for bacteria to enter
- Leaves crushed in the process of pulling can lose their flavor and integrity
- Pull hard enough and the mint leaves themselves may rip!
- Lower chances of mint shooting meaning your plants are not growing
- The plant becomes straggly with sparse foliage
- If the topmost growth is not harvested, the mint will flower, drop seeds, and die back.
When to harvest Mint?
When speaking about specific timings, harvesting mint is best done in the morning as with other herbs. As this is when they are most flavorful!
Harvesting Mint is best done before flowering, this is usually sometime in summer. Harvest mint by cutting the stems an inch or so off the top. Doing so stimulates vigorous growth in the mint.
If winters are very cold in your area you can bring the mint indoors to help it survive. This has its advantages as you can again harvest the fresh leaves if the plant is alive and well.
Does Mint Grow Back After Harvesting?
Will mint grow back after harvesting? The short answer is yes, but there are conditions!
Harvesting mint correctly usually mimics pruning and encourages shooting. However, whether or not mint will grow back will depend on two factors:
1) How you harvested your mint
Always use the correct mint harvesting technique as it leaves the plant with minimal injury and bruising. The least invasive methods always lead to the fastest regrowth rate.
Harvesting by pulling can possibly lead to no growth back. Harvesting with the right tools will most probably result in a very impressive grow back of your mint plant.
2) How much you harvest?
If you have harvested too much mint, it may take longer to grow back. Plus there are no guarantees that it will even regrow. This is why you have to consciously harvest a realistic amount of mint.
The mint plant is a hardy plant and will bounce back fairly fast if you harvest correctly and provide it with everything it needs to grow back.
How Long Does Mint Take to Grow Back?
There is no strict timeline in which mint plants will grow back. It could happen as fast as a few days, or a few weeks!
All you can do is follow good practices that will induce rapid regrowing of your herb. To make this happen, you can start by harvesting your mint correctly.
Secondly, do not over-harvest your mint! The plant should never be bare or straggly, that’s when you know you have over-harvested your mint plant.
Lastly, mint plants need care and attention like any other plant. This means water, appropriate soil, and sunlight. Limiting these vital items will result in mint taking longer to grow. Plus, you run the risk of it dying altogether.
Provided that the herb has adequate sun and water it should not take more than a few weeks before it grows back completely.
Storing Harvested Mint & Keeping Times
Well, after planting and harvesting your mint, you might find yourself with quite an abundance of mint, taking their vigorous growth into consideration, and you might be thinking, what now?
Perhaps you would be thinking about storing the Mint for the winter when the plant could very well die down. Here are methods of storing excess harvested mint with the period of time the mint will remain usable.
Here the readily harvested mint should be carefully washed and patted dry with a paper towel. Then using a slightly damp paper towel, wrap the mint in carefully. Put this in a ziplock bag and in the fridge.
Refrigerated mint will keep for about a week. Be careful that the mint is not crushed by other items in the fridge!
This freezing technique works by inhibiting bacterial action and disintegration caused by it. Simply wash the mint leaves and freeze them. Be sure to remove moisture beforehand as it may contribute to rotting when temperatures even slightly increase.
After the mint leaves are frozen they can be stored in a plastic bag or a container, with the air being removed. It can be kept for up to 3 months
3) Keeping Mint Alive in Water
Keep your mint alive and in the house without soil!
Cut a length of mint, and place it in a jar with an inch of water. The cut end of the mint must be submerged in water. Without damaging the mint, cover the top of the jar with clear plastic and secure it with a rubber band, and place it in the refrigerator.
This jar in the refrigerator will keep the mint fresh for 2 weeks if you constantly change the water.
4) Storing Mint as Ice Cubes
The mint should be harvested and any damaged stems or leaves removed. Wash the mint and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
You may now decide if you would like your mint leaves chopped or left as is, and fill the ice trays accordingly. Fill with water and pop the trays into the freezer.
Don’t forget to date and label the bag because these cubes have an expiry date!
5) Drying Mint
This is another option open to storing mint for prolonged use.
You can dry mint leaves by hanging them upside down in paper bags in a dry, dark, and well-ventilated room. In about 1 or 2 weeks they should be dry, ideally, the mint should be dry and brittle. Alternatively, drying mint can also be done in an oven. Doing so could take a maximum of 4 hours.
Dry mint can last a long time!
Mint is a valuable plant to have in the house and to harvest on a daily basis to use fresh. However, be careful about how you gather your mint plants as damaging it could possibly kill the plant.
To harvest mint without killing the plant, you must use small scissors or sharp shears and make a small incision to remove the leaves from the stem. It is best to avoid pulling or tearing the leaves off.
Additionally, you would want to avoid over-exploiting your mint and leaving it with minimal foliage. This may actually kill your mint.
Is your Mint dying, but can’t find the reason? find out why your Mint is dying?
Mint can be grown in USDA zones 3 to 8. This means it is possible to grow the mint in the temperatures -40℉ to 20℉ (-40℃ to -6.5℃). The plant is quite resilient in the right climates under the right conditions. That said, this herb is hardy but not the hardiest as it is intolerant to winter.
There are a variety of mint variants such as Peppermint, Wild mint, Spearmint, Apple mint, Water mint, Mentha mint, Pennyroyal mint, Ginger Mint, and Orange mint, Basil mint, Licorice Mint, and Field mint to name a few.