Delightfully fragrant and relatively low maintenance, mint is a joy to grow – earning its place in any kitchen herb garden.

Mint can, however, be a little invasive and spreads quickly – so don’t be surprised if you end up with an abundance of this zesty herb at the end of the growing season. Never fear, though, your bounty need not go to waste! Here’s everything you need to know about harvesting and using homegrown mint.

How to Harvest & Prepare Mint

Keep your mint plant at its best by frequently harvesting small amounts of the leaves for your culinary and medicinal uses. Not only will you be encouraging the herb to fill out, but young leaves have more flavor than the older ones.

Pick off the leaves as you need them, remembering to harvest no more than one-third of the entire plant at any one time until the end of the season. If your plant is growing outdoors, then right before it starts to flower, cut the stems to one inch from the ground. You can harvest one mint plant two or three times in one growing season.

Mint sprigs will keep for a few days in water, and the leaves can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days, although it’s best to use them immediately or preserve them by freezing or air-drying.

Here are some fantastic ways to use your beautifully fragrant mint leaves:

As a Food

This sweet, zingy and refreshing herb can impart some serious flavor to a dish. Some of the more popular culinary uses of mint include:

1. Vinegars & Oils
Preserving its flavor through a simple vinegar or oil infusion is one of the most convenient ways to use up mint leaves.

Apple cider vinegar and peppercorns work with mint in pungent vinegar that’s perfect in salad dressings or homemade flavored mayonnaise. A lightly flavored mint oil is ideal for drizzling over salads, fresh fish, rice or vegetable dishes.

2. Soups
While mint isn’t the first herb most of us would turn to when flavoring broth, it can enliven some fantastic summer soups.

A fresh, creamy and healthy pea and mint soup is always a winner; while orange, carrot and mint make a more surprising but equally delicious combination.

3. Sauces, Chutneys and Dips
Mint plays the starring role in some delicious sauces and dips. For a classic English flavor, try the traditional mint sauce with roast lamb. Many Indian dishes will pair exceptionally well with a cucumber and mint raita, or mint chutney.

For a new take on a classic, whip up a mint pesto using parsley, garlic, lemon, and oil. It’s ideal for flavoring all manner of meat or vegetable dishes.

4. Vegetable Dishes
In addition to drizzling mint infused oils or vinegars on your meals, or pairing them with a minty sauce, why not add fresh mint leaves directly to your dish?

5. Salads and Sandwiches
Mint is an often neglected herb when it comes to adding a kick to salads or sandwiches – but it really does deliver! It’s delicious chopped up with other greens and always works with tomato or cucumber.

For something a little more adventurous, try fresh spring salad with quinoa, corn and mint; or a lemony potato salad.

Mint works in some sandwiches too – like a crisp English cucumber sandwich or a feta cheese filled pita bread.

6. Noodles and Pastas
Summertime pasta and noodle dishes can all benefit from the addition of fresh mint – bringing their light and sweet flavors to a new level.

Play around and see what works for you, or keep it simple and try a creamy avocado pasta with mint; or a tasty lemon, mint, pea and garlic pasta. Noodle lovers will enjoy soba noodles with vegetables and mint; while gluten free and raw foodies can enjoy guilt-free cucumber mint noodles with ginger dressing.

7. Desserts
Because chocolate and mint are a match made in heaven, desserts, and sweet treats are where mint really shines. The recipes using mint are endless – from milkshakes and ice-creams to cupcakes, cakes, and cookies – so those with a sweet tooth should have no trouble using up their mint harvest.

For some lightened up (and vegan) dessert ideas indulge in healthy mint chocolate fudge; creamy and dreamy peppermint patties or a fresh mint sorbet. Of course, you can’t go wrong with a fresh fruit salad garnished with homegrown mint sprigs.

8. Drinks
Some of the most refreshing summer drinks are based around mint – think mint Juleps or the classic mojito. For something a little more complex, try a verbena mint cocktail or a delicious Lady Grey tea, lemon and mint vodka drink (which can also be made alcohol-free).

Other delicious non-alcoholic mint drinks include a minty lemonade or a cucumber, apple and mint smoothie – the perfect way to start the day.
Of course, a cool pitcher of water infused with lemon or cucumber slices and fresh mint leaves may be the most refreshing thing you drink all summer while simple mint ice cubes add flavor and fun to any cool drink.

As a Medicine

Mint is one of nature’s most valuable herbal remedies – here’s how you can harness its therapeutic properties:

9. Mint Essential Oil
Distil your very own mint essential oil from your organic and homegrown plant and reap its many health benefits – including relief from nausea, stress, indigestion, respiratory problems, headaches, allergies and more.

For an easy to make but a less potent alternative, simply infuse mint leaves in a carrier oil like jojoba or olive for three to six weeks, leaving in a warm and sunny place. This oil can be used topically in many of the ways you would use the pure essential oil.
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Delightfully fragrant and relatively low maintenance, mint is a joy to grow – earning its place in any kitchen herb garden. Mint can, however, be a little invasive and spreads quickly – so don’t be surprised if you end up with an abundance of this zesty herb at the...