Perhaps you have been out walking along a stream's edge and discovered the smell of mint wafting through the air. Finding wild mint is fun and of course it can be transplanted to grow in your garden. During the warm summer months, mint grows plentifully, but as soon as the first frost hits, the leaves will turn black and wilt away very fast. Preparing ahead of time to preserve some mint leaves for winter will enable you to enjoy that fresh flavor until spring comes again.
Pick your mint first thing in the morning, cutting off twelve inch sprigs with a pair of sharp scissors. Give it a good shaking to make sure you are not carrying any stray bugs on the leaves or stems. Rinse the cuttings under cold water and tie a length of cotton string around the base of the stems. Hang them up to dry in a dry and dark area where bugs and spiders will not get at them. After a few days, they should be quite dry and brittle and they can be crunched and crumbled into a container to be used as dry tea leaves.
Freeze the mint in order to get the full flavor of fresh mint. Pick the fresh mint in the morning and remove from the stems. Simply pack them into a suitable freezer container of your choice and store in your freezer until ready for use. If they freeze together in a clump, they can be crushed with a wooden sturdy spoon. These frozen leaves will be wilted when they thaw, but they will still have the essential oils and fresh flavor.
Pick the fresh mint first thing in the morning and rinse clean. Shake off any excess water. Remove the leaves from the stems and place them in a decorative jar or bottle. Once about about a cup of leaves have been placed in the jar or bottle, pour in about a quart of vodka. Cover and set aside in a cool and dark place. The alcohol will dissolve the essential oils and flavors and leave you with a very strong mint flavored vodka that can be used as is or for cooking as a flavoring. The longer it sits, the stronger the flavor will get.
Add the freshly picked mint leaves to a simple sugar syrup and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and pour into bottles. The leaves can be left in for stronger flavor, or removed just before bottling. Follow the directions for canning jam and jellies to store without refrigeration. This syrup will have a wonderful fresh mint flavor that can be used in drinks, ices or other recipes calling for mint syrup.
Layer the fresh and dry leaves on a layer of granulated sugar. Cover with another layer of sugar. Continue layering until the container is full. Cover tightly and store for about one month. The dry leaves or minted sugar can now be used in various recipes. The minted sugar is a wonderful sweetener for tea.
Don't leave mint out for a long period of time before preserving. This will defeat the purpose and sabotage your efforts.
Maryland resident Heide Braley is a professional writer who contributes to a variety of websites. She has focused more than 10 years of research on botanical and garden articles and was awarded a membership to the Society of Professional Journalists. Braley has studied at Pennsylvania State University and Villanova University.