As the weather gets colder and I wrap myself up in warm sweaters and soft blankets, my tea obsession comes out. It starts with simple drinks of steaming hot water. Then I crave something more and from there I quickly amass jars of herbs, spices, and teas.
My three favorites are chamomile, white tea, and mint.
It’s always a little hard to procure these items “loose-leaf” and fresh. Every store sells them in large teabags of super low quality, which is lot like bringing a hammer to a knitting party.
I prefer to control my flavor with just a few leaves and this means I often go herb hunting. This year I’ve been to three stores and none match the apothecary quality I’m looking for.
It’s sad that these stores are absent from our commercial scene. Their new residence is the dusty upper shelf of crappy supermarkets.
I hope to eventually acquire some decent white tea and chamomile, but the mint will be coming from the garden. Since this is my first time harvesting mint I looked up some mint-harvesting guidelines:
- The better tasting leaves are the younger ones, near the growing tips. The bigger, and much darker leaves near the middle or bottom of the stalk are bitter and tasteless.
- I always remove all the stem and just use the leaves in my teas.
- I wait until my mint is 8-10 inches tall and cut it back to 2-3 inches tall to help it branch and regrow shrubbier.
The biggest question here is: what variety of mint are you growing?
When herb gardening really took off back in the ’70’s, everybody & his brother started growing & hybridizing them. One of the easiest was the mint family. Thus, there are so many “mutt” mints out there today that it’s hard to throw a stick without hitting one. In fact, for the past 11 years I’ve been marginally successfully rooting out some sort of “mutt” mint that the original homeowner planted around the house. What a nightmare!!
Although I harvest and dry small amounts of mint throughout the summer, I do my main harvest when the first blossom bud appears. At that point, I cut the whole bed, leaving an inch or two on most stalks. It grows back quickly, and I get a second crop by the end of summer.