Mint is a rapidly-growing herb that can be grown in containers or a backyard herb garden. Mint is best harvested in the morning hours when oils are at their most fragrant and just before the flowering stage. Fresh leaves are often used in fruit salads, to flavour iced tea and other drinks or as garnish. The fragrant oils of the mint leaves release a fresh crisp scent, so working with mint in your kitchen will make the whole room smell minty.
Harvest the mint just before the flowering stage. Cut each stem at the base of the plant. Be careful not to crush or break the mint leaves during harvesting.
Rinse the cut plants well in cold water; warm or hot water can leach out essential oils. Remove and discard any damaged or discoloured leaves.
Pat dry with paper towel, then lay out the washed plants in single layers on more paper towel to dry. Allow to dry for at least two to three hours until completely dry; if moisture remains on the plants, they may become mouldy. You can also dry them in a salad spinner, then finish drying on paper towels.
Gather eight to ten stems of the dried mint; tie the sprigs together at the bottom. Hang the tied bunches upside down in a dark, dry, well-ventilated room. Allow the mint to air-dry for one to two weeks until completely dry.
Strip the leaves from the dried bunches; be careful not to crush the leaves as you remove them from the stems. Discard the stems. Store the dried mint in airtight containers in a cool dark location.
If you live in a high-moisture climate, air-drying may not be possible. Place washed and dried mint sprigs in a single layer on a dehydrator tray or a baking tray. Dry on low temperature in dehydrator or in warm oven. Preheat oven to "warm" for 20 minutes, then turn off oven. Put the baking tray of mint sprigs into the warm oven and leave for 20 to 30 minutes. You can put each bunch of mint into a brown paper lunch sack before you hang them upside down to dry. The bags catch any leaves that fall off during drying, precluding the need for clean-up, and also help retain the fragrant oils during the drying process. Paper bags, however, do not provide adequate storage for dried mint or other herbs.
Mold can form in mint leaves which contain even slight traces of moisture, so be sure to completely dry the leaves after washing them and be sure the bunches of mint sprigs are completely dry before removing and storing the leaves.