Spearmint Mentha spicata
My spearmint patch has spread around the borders of my Square Foot Gardens. I love the fragrance the plants release as I work in the raised beds. It’s impossible to dislike weeding when a cloud of spearmint-scented air wells up around me as I pull out crabgrass and other persistent weeds.
I’ve posted in the past on making delicious teas with fresh spearmint leaves. Place a few sprigs in a teacup, add boiling water and a bit of honey, and you have an invigorating cup of tea. Seriously though, I have to be aware of the time of day when I drink Spearmint tea. The herb is a stimulant and can keep me awake if I drink it too late in the day.
My spearmint reached the flowering stage this week. To enable the plants to branch out I harvested the tops of the tallest stems. I decided it was the perfect time to try a new idea I recently stumbled across: making my own herbal extracts.
The first step is to buy a good vodka. I was thrilled to find an organic variety.
After a gentle rinse and drying time, chop the spearmint leaves (or whatever herb you are using) into small pieces, place in a glass jar, and cover with the vodka. I found a great tip that advised on putting a plastic bag between the lid and jar. If rust forms on the lid it can contaminate the extract. The plastic keeps this from happening. Let the jar sit in a dark place, shake it every now and then, for four to six weeks. Strain off the herbs and place the finished spearmint extract into dark bottles. The extract will keep for three to five years.
Terrific directions and information can be found at this site: Mountain Rose Herbs: How to make your own liquid herbal extract.
I had quite a few sprigs of the spearmint left over. I removed the leaves from the stems and placed them on a parchment-covered drying rack in my turkey roaster. I set the temperature on the warm and let the herbs sit for twenty-four hours. This is a quick way to start the drying process. You can read about other techniques for drying fresh herbs at: Mother Earth News – Six Ways to Dry Fresh Herbs.
The leaves dried nicely, most retaining an appealing green color.
I put the leaves in a brown paper bag. A good place to continue the drying process is in a dark closet. When completely dry, I can store the spearmint in glass jars until I am ready to use it.