For the past couple of days I’ve been harvesting mint to dry and use throughout the winter in an herbal infusion that I drink as a type of “multi-vitamin.” I’ll share the recipe with you later, but first I wanted to share with you how easy it is to harvest and dry mint.
Harvest in the morning after the dew has dried but before the heat of the day is able to “bake off” some of the essential oils found in the plant.
You can cut mint down at the base of the plant since mint is an herb that grows from the roots. You can typically get at least two good harvests in a season from your mint plants.
I spread the mint out on a sheet over night to loose some of the moisture in the plant and then begin to trim off the leaves (I use my thumbnail) from the stem and place on a drying screen. Discard any brown leaves or leaves that have obviously been munched on by critters.
In my Excalibur, the drying time is about 8 hours depending on humidity and size of leaves. You could also place them in the oven with just the pilot light on, or just dry them on the racks in a well ventilated area. You can also trim off the bottom leaves and gather a bunch together using a rubber band (the rubber band will shrink as the the stems loose their moisture and get smaller) and then hang the stems upside down someplace out of the way until they’re dry.
After the mint is dry, I store mine in an air-tight glass jar (a mason jar works well) so it’s handy when I’m ready to make my infusion.
The difference between an herbal tea and an herbal infusion is the amount of time you let it steep. An infusion should steep for at least 4 hours, I usually prepare my infusion at night before bed and let it steep while I’m asleep. When I wake up it’s ready for me to drink throughout the day.
When herbs are allowed to steep in water, vitamins, minerals, and polysaccharides (immune stimulating and nutritive compounds) are extracted from the plant. Some flavonoids, glycosides, saponins, and alkaloids are also extracted, but more of these compounds are extracted by using alcohol (like in a tincture).
Nourishing herbs are very much like food for our bodies. They are high in vitamins and minerals and are a wonderful way to get these nutrients into our bodies. When we drink them as an infusion (or a tea) our bodies are much more able to assimilate them than when they are taken in pill form.
Consider these nourishing infusions to be your multi-vitamin in a jar.
The basic recipe for a nourishing infusion is:
- 1 ounce of dried (cut herb)
- 1 quart of water
- 1 quart mason jar or French Press
Weigh out one ounce of dried herb and put it into your quart jar. Using dried plant material is very important, since drying the plant breaks down the cell wall which allows the nutrients to move from the plant material into the water.
Pour boiling water over the herb to fill the jar.
Stir, so that all of the plant material is covered by water.
Cap the jar and allow it to steep for at least four hours. Strain and drink. You can drink this infusion at room temperature or heat it or chill it. You can also add honey or milk or cream or mix the infusion with juice or another tea like peppermint. Experiment to see what you like best.
The infusion I make includes herbs that are good for female hormonal balance and supply calcium too.
- 1 Tbs dried oat straw
- 1 Tbs Calendula
- 1 Tbs Nettle
- 1 Tbs Red Raspberry leaves
- 1 Tbs Mint
- 1 Qt hot water
I place the herbs in a french press and cover with the hot water. After the herbs are done steeping, I simply press the herbs to the bottom and can easily pour off the infusion and enjoy. 🙂
Infusions made with water as their base have a pretty short shelf life. They can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days, but you should generally drink them the same day you make them.
Do you have a favorite infusion? If so, I’d love to know your recipe. 🙂