How to harvest mint without killing the plant

Mint is a perennial herb with a reputation for being a vigorous grower that is almost impossible to kill.

Based on my experience, mint plants can be close to invasive. My mint plants endure frost and being covered in snow for some parts of the winter and still come back with new fresh growth every spring.

Still, you must treat your mint plant right if you expect the plant to produce tasty, fresh leaves to harvest. After all, the goal is to nurture a healthy plant, not just your plant’s survival.

Apple mint is also known as round-leaved mint (Mentha x rotundifolia)
Apple mint or round-leaved mint (Mentha x rotundifolia)

Here are five tips to ensure your mint plants keep growing and producing fresh leaves to harvest throughout the growing season.

How to harvest mint without killing or damaging the plant

1. Harvesting mint plant before flower buds become flowers

Remove buds before they flower for the best-tasting fresh mint leaves. Harvest from the top and ensure you place your cut above a leaf node to allow the plant to regrow.

2. Harvesting mint leaves in the morning

Harvest mint leaves in the morning when the concentration of essential oils is the highest.

Harvest mint when the dew has dried from the leaves, but the direct sunlight has not yet reached the plant.

3. Harvesting mint leaves using proper herb or garden shears

Use sharp scissors or herb garden sheers to harvest mint leaves or cuttings.

Do not pull, tear or pinch leaves or branches from your mint plant.

Harvesting by hand will, of course, work. But you risk stressing or damaging the plant, making the plant more susceptible to pests and diseases.

4. Choosing the right time to harvest your mint plants

I recommend only harvesting fresh mint from healthy and established plants.

Give the plant a couple of weeks to settle in before harvesting if the plant was recently moved or transplanted.

5. Harvest what you need but not too much

You can harvest mint plants quite aggressively but always leave at least 3 pairs of leaves on the branch.

Never harvest more than half the foliage to avoid shocking the plant.

The best technique to harvest mint without killing the plant

Your mint plants will grow bushier and stronger when harvested correctly.

Use herb or garden scissors to cut the stem above the leaf nodes to stimulate new growth.

Cut the stem just above a fresh set of leaf nodes
Cut just above a fresh set of leaf nodes.

You can harvest mint throughout the growing season.

Best ways to store mint

Mint plants respond well to harvesting and will continue to produce fresh new growth throughout the season.

Fresh mint can be used in salads, mint tea, as an ingredient in salsa verde or pesto, and to flavor sugar or spice mixes.

You can store fresh mint leaves for about a week in a plastic bag in the fridge. Place a damp paper towel in the bag to prevent the leaves from drying.

Still growing mint, you may have more mint than you can use fresh. But having too much mint is a happy problem. Here are my 3 favorite methods to store fresh mint leaves for later use.

1. Store mint leaves in a freezer bag

Harvest your mint plant and make sure the leaves are clean and dry.

I never wash the leaves. I manually inspect the leaves and use a soft brush to remove dirt, grit, or insects.

You should of course wash the leaves if you use pesticides or other non-organic products or fertilizers.

Next, place the clean, dry mint leaves in a freezer bag and remove as much air as possible. And finally, place the freezer bag in your freezer.

Use your frozen mint leaves as they are, as mint leaves lose their form and structure when they thaw.

2. Dry mint for later use

You can use dried mint for tea but also to season cold and hot sauces as well as in your everyday cooking. Dried mint is green in color and has a strong, minty scent and aroma.

There are at least 3 different methods to dry your mint harvest.

1. Hang mint sprigs or cuttings on a piece of string

Harvest mint sprigs or cuttings from your mint plant. Next, tie the stems together in loose bunches of 3-4 branches.

Ensure that air can flow freely between the leaves and branches. If the bunch is too dense, start over by removing one sprig.

You must ensure that the fresh leaves are clean and dry and that air can flow freely around the leaves.

Hang the bunches of mint in a dark, warm area with good air circulation.

Store the dry mint leaves in an airtight container when the leaves crumble on touch.

2. Dry your mint leaves in the oven

Place the clean, dry, and freshly harvested mint leaves on an oven-proof baking sheet.

Space out the leaves evenly to ensure the best result.

Moroccan mint plant started from seed
Moroccan mint plant

Put the baking sheet in the oven at 55 degrees Celsius / 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

Much like when you dry, for example, peppers, do not close the oven door completely. Leaving the oven door slightly open will help airflow and circulation.

Check the progress every 30 minutes, and keep a close eye on the color of your mint leaves. Dry mint leave should be green, not dark.

Lower the oven temperature if the leaves show signs of turning dark. If you are already at the lowest possible setting, open the oven door more to cool down your oven.

Store the dried mint in airtight containers in a dark and cool area.

3. Use a dehydrator to dry mint leaves

Using a dehydrator follows the same general principles as drying mint in the oven.

Read the instruction manual, but you typically look for a temperature of 55 degrees Celsius / 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Make mint ice cubes

It is hard to beat a glass of fresh water on a hot summer day. But adding mint ice cubes will make it much more enjoyable.

My preferred method uses a heatproof ice cube tray, fresh mint leaves, and boiling water.

  1. Fill each cell of the ice cube tray with a few mint leaves
  2. Pour boiling water into each cell and leave to cool
  3. When cool, remove the darkened leaves
  4. Place new fresh leaves in the ice cube tray (optional)
  5. Place mint ice cube trays in the freezer until solid

You can also use mint ice cubes to flavor stews, soups, and cold sauces.

Can I propagate mint from cuttings in soil or water

You can propagate a new mint plant from each cutting you harvest. The process is relatively straightforward and is a great way to grow mint plants.

  1. Use sharp shears to cut the mint plant just above fresh leaf nodes
  2. Remove all leaves leaving only the top 2 pairs
  3. Place cutting in a glass of water or plant in well-draining moist soil

Cuttings propagated in water can be transplanted when you see fresh new root growth. If you propagate cuttings in potting soil, the mint plant can be moved to a larger pot when you see fresh new growth.

Meet the author: Mattias is an experienced gardener spending most of his free time on his knees among herbs, plants and garden vegetables. For the past two years he has been sharing gardening projects and how-to tutorials on the NordicLavender website and YouTube channel.