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How to Harvest Mint Without Damaging the Plant

Mint is an easy-to-grow herb that can be used in a variety of dishes and drinks. However, when harvesting mint, it is important to take care not to damage the plant, to ensure it continues to thrive. Here’s a quick guide on how to harvest mint so that you can enjoy its fresh flavor all summer long.

Hands harvesting mint with a pair of red herb scissors.
How to harvest mint.

If you’re looking for a delicious and refreshing way to add some flavor to your summer dishes, look no further than mint!

This versatile herb can be used in sweet or savory dishes, and is a cinch to grow in your own backyard.

However, to ensure that it continues to thrive, there are a few steps you should take when harvesting mint leaves, to promote growth and ensure that you don’t damage the plant.

When to harvest mint

Mint plants can be harvested around 16 weeks after sowing seeds, though you can start to pick leaves as soon as the mint seedlings have reaches around 8 inches in height, and started to get bushy. 

The best time of day to harvest mint is in the morning after the dew has dried, but before the day has started to heat up. This is when the aromatic oils are at their highest levels in the leaves.

Harvesting mint without killing the plant

If you just want a mint leaf or two for a recipe, it is fine to pick what you need from the top of the plant. However, if you want to harvest a larger amount, then the approach you take is important for the long-term health of the plant:

To harvest mint and ensure that the plant remains healthy, do not remove more than ½ the plant. Harvest the mint leaves from the top down, leaving at least one leaf pair at the bottom of a stem. Give the plant time to recover and grow back after removing the leaves. 

How to harvest mint to promote growth

If mint isn’t cut regularly or correctly, it can start to grow tall and ‘leggy.’ The space between the leaves on the stems will increase, and the plant gets too tall to support itself.

If this starts to happen, then trimming some of the leaves and part of the stems is an excellent way to encourage it to grow more densely and put out new shoots.

Harvest mint stems from the top down, cutting off up to half of the total stem length. You should make a cut right above a leaf pair, without leaving a bare section of stem at the top.

This will encourage new growth, prompting the stem to branch where it was cut. This keeps the plant form more dense and compact with branching stems and leaves close together, rather than long leggy branches with few leaves.

As a bonus, regular harvesting of the tips of the stems discourages the mint plant from flowering. Once flower buds appear plant growth will slow, and the leaves will begin to lose their flavor, so delaying flowering means a longer harvesting period.

Harvesting mint at the end of the growing season

Mint is a perennial plant, meaning it does not die at the end of the growing season. However, it will usually die back substantially over the winter season.

It is a good idea to cut it back at the start of fall while the leaves are still good to use, cutting the stems off at the ground. This will also help to prevent insects and diseases overwintering in the plant and emerging in the springtime.

The mint plant will lie dormant over winter, and then grow new stems from the roots.

Tips for storing mint

Store mint fresh

Store fresh mint leaves in the refrigerator for up to a month, either standing in water, or between two damp paper towels. Refresh the water as needed.

>> Related post: How to Store Fresh Mint

Dry mint

To dry mint, give the leaves a quick wash to remove any dust, then pat them dry.

Spread them out between two sheets of parchment and leave them in a warm dry place until they are bone dry. Store in an air-tight container in a cool place.

>> Related post: How to store dried herbs

Store mint in the freezer

Try freezing mint – finely chop the mint leaves and freeze with water in an ice-cube tray to make mint cubes. Then simply pop out a frozen mint cube when you want to use some in your recipe. Try popping one in your drink for a refreshing burst of flavor.

How to Harvest Mint

Hands harvesting mint with a pair of red herb scissors.

How to harvest mint without damaging the plant.

Active Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost free

Materials

  • A mint plant

Tools

  • Sharp scissors or secateurs

Instructions

  1. Inspect your mint plant to find a long stem.
  2. Cut the stem between a third and halfway down, just above a leaf pair using sharp scissors or secateurs to make a good clean cut.
  3. If you are harvesting the mint to use in a recipe, continue until you have sufficient leaves, or until you have cut the top section off every stem on the plant.
  4. If you are harvesting mint to improve the condition of your plant, continue to prune until you have cut all the long leggy stems back.
  5. Place the mint plant in a sunny location, keep watered, and allow it to regrow.

Notes

  1. If you have harvested a large amount of mint and you don't want to use it right away, store it in the fridge or stand the stems in a glass of water.


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