Whoever first thought of drying herbs and using them either has a stroke of genius or simply displayed an innovative response to necessity. Since no one knows for sure when and where the practice of drying herbs exactly began and why. Let us just focus on what we know.
Dried mint is one of the many dried herbs common around the world. Why someone thought of drying up mint when a fresh mint is perfectly useful will remain unknown. What we do know is that dried mint is a staple in modern society today. It is a multi-billion dollar global industry. Production of dried mint is important primarily in cooking, food preparation, and food processing. It is used to flavor food and non-food items like toothpaste. It is used as an aromatic and air freshener. While fresh mint has many uses, there are instances wherein dried mint is needed.
Dried Mint Trivia
- In ancient Greece, funerary rites require the use of mint to mask the odor of the decaying body of the dead.
- To keep gums healthy, doctors used to advise patients to use dried mint and rub it on the gums.
- In 2018, the US’ production of peppermint oil is enough to fill one Olympic-sized swimming pool.
- Ancient Greek physicians thought ingesting mint can keep women from becoming pregnant.
- Recipes that made use of dried mint can be found in the ancient Roman cookbook Apicius.
- A folk practice involves scattered mints around the house to get rid of pests. Today, people use highly aromatic dried mint leaves to keep insect pests out of the garden. Flies, fleas, ants, and even mice hate the scent of peppermint.
Dried Mint Buying Guide
When buying dried mint, first, make sure you know whether it is for cooking, medicinal, or non-culinary purposes. Know that not all dried mint tastes the same, and thus, caution is encouraged when seeking to use substitutes. For example, dried mint is usually made from spearmint, while dried mint tea leaves are usually leaves of peppermint. These two types of mint have varying flavor profiles, and attempting to use the other as a substitute may not have a satisfying result, so make sure that you know what you need exactly and buy the correct item.
Dried mint is not just for cooking, traditional remedy, and folk medicine. It is also functional and is used to make the house smell naturally pleasant. Many mint varieties are great aromatics that you can use to bring fragrance to a room. Mint is a very large family with a lot of different types and cultivars, and if used as an aromatic, you will notice that one type of dried mint smells different compared to another type of dried mint, ranging from spicy cinnamon scent to an invigorating citrusy smell. Try dried lively orange mint leaves or dried warm apple mint leaves, or even the dried chocolate mint. Dried mint leaves are added to the potpourri, or simply simmer dried mint leaves in water. The amazing aroma will spread all over the house. Another thing you can do is fill sachets with dried mint leaves and place them near air conditioning units or near the window where there’s a breeze and let the aroma fill the room or the house. You can put dried spearmint leaf sachets inside drawers or tie dried mint branches in closets to keep moths away and keep it smelling fresh and fragrant. So when buying a particular type of dried mint, or when buying a fresh mint to dry, consider what scent or smell you want from your dried mint.
Inspect the bottle of dried mint you are buying. Check for any sign in the label, bottle, or plastic packaging that may indicate that the quality of the product has been compromised, and report this immediately to the store attendant. In a journal article entitled “A review of drying methods for improving the quality of dried herbs” published in Food Science and Nutrition, authors Grant Thamkaew, Ingegerd Sjoholm, and Federico Gomez Galindo noted how “dried culinary herbs are usually high in value, thus, the expectation of consumers regarding the quality of the product is generally high.”
Dried Mint Production & Farming in Texas
Texas is not known for its mint production, but many growers, gardeners, and enthusiasts here plant mints, and if there are mint growers, those who make dried mint are not far behind. It is ideal for mint if the soil is loamy with a neutral pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Mints grow best when the soil is moist, which means they grow best when they are planted near pools of water, or beside lakes or rivers, or somewhere with a long rainy season. It is ideal to always monitor how fast and how far the mint plant is spreading because if left unchecked, they can easily overrun a garden and be a threat to other plants there.
The best soil to plant spearmint – which is commonly used in making dried mint – is alkaline soil with a pH ranging from 6.5 to 7.5. Spearmint can grow even in Zone 11, which means it can withstand a hot climate and thrive. While spearmint needs full sun, in Texas where it can get very, very hot, experienced growers advise against keeping spearmint exposed to direct sunlight non-stop and advised instead to allow some time in partial shade.
Peppermint – which is used in making dried mint tea – naturally thrives in moist habitat, as such, it requires constant watering but it will suffer if it becomes water-logged. Make sure your peppermint has enough sun and enough time in the shade as well. Peppermint thrives well if the soil is slightly acidic with a pH ranging from 6.5 to 7.0. Peppermint is hardy in zones 3-8. This means in Texas, it is ideal to plant peppermint in Amarillo (Zone 6), Lubbock, El Paso (Zone 7), Dallas, Waco, Bryan College Station, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio (Zone 8).
Dried mint is a commercial enterprise. Commercial industrial drying is a complex process. Several drying techniques include supercritical carbon dioxide drying and heat-pump-assisted drying. Pre-drying treatments are also being done and methods include using ultrasound or pulsed electric field. There are also solar-powered drying systems and innovative integrated solar drying systems like heat-pump integrated solar dryers and fluidized bed solar dryers. Some use hybrid drying, combining two or more drying techniques. Examples include solar-hot air drying, microwave vacuum drying, and hot air-low humidity drying.
But drying mint is something you can easily do. You can dry your fresh mints at home using any of the three commonly-used methods: air-drying, food dehydrator, or oven.
Common mint pests include aphids, thrips, whitefly, and spider mites. Part of growing spearmint especially in large quantities is having to deal with pests, and spearmint attracts a lot of pests, most common of which include thrips, cutworms, aphids, flea beetles, loopers, and spider mites. Many broad-spectrum pesticides are effective in killing different types of pests.
- Aphids – Kills aphids destroying your spearmint using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil. You can also use the pesticide malathion, which is the most commonly used organophosphate insecticide in the United States, or rotenone, a selective, non-specific insecticide typically used in home gardens for insect control. Apply through foliar spraying. You can try introducing or attracting lady beetles or wasps which feed on aphids. You can also wash away aphids using a strong spray of water or mix insecticidal soap in them. This will also rid the plant of other pests such as spider mites and whitefly.
- Thrips – To kill thrips, there is a wide array of options to choose from: horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, anti-parasite spray spinosad, or pyrethrin pesticides with piperonyl butoxide.
- Spider mites – To get rid of spider mites, use neem oil and apply it through foliar spraying. It contains azadirachtin which is effective against spider mites. You can also use horticultural oil (which also targets aphids and thrips). Pests die after exposure to horticultural oil due to suffocation since the oil blocks the spiracles through which insects breathe. Another effect of horticultural oils is disrupting the metabolism of insect eggs. Lastly, horticultural oils disrupt the insect’s ability to feed. As a result, the insect starves to death. Using pyrethrin spray is also an effective method against spider mites. Another option is spinosad, a mixture of two chemicals called spinosyn A and spinosyn D typically used to control a wide variety of pests.
- Cutworms – Pesticides such as carbaryl will kill cutworms attacking your spearmint. Pyrethroid insecticides like cyfluthrin and the insecticide permethrin are also useful for this purpose.
- Flea beetles – The use of man-made pesticide carbaryl is the solution to rid of flea beetles. Other options include pyrethroid insecticides like cyfluthrin and Lambda cyhalothrin, pesticide malathion, pyrethrin spray, permethrin insecticide, and spinosad.
- Loopers – To kill this pest, you can spray your spearmint with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) spray, insecticidal soap spray, or anti-parasite spray spinosad.
Spearmint, which is commonly used in making dried mint, is believed to be native to Europe and in some locations in Asia. Spearmint is naturalized in Africa, North America, and South America. It was the Romans who brought spearmint to England during the 5th century. Today, the United States is one of the major producers of spearmint as well as peppermint. Washington, Oregon, Indiana, Idaho, and Michigan are the top spearmint-producing states in the country. Other countries producing spearmint are China, India, and Russia.
Peppermint is indigenous to Europe and the Middle East. Because of the growth in popularity of peppermint among consumers who enjoyed everything and anything with peppermint flavor – from candies to cookies to schnapps – peppermint is now cultivated worldwide. The United States is one of the major producers of peppermint worldwide. Other countries that produce peppermint include India, Morocco, Argentina, Australia, France, Russia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Italy, and Switzerland.
Because it can grow and spread very fast, peppermint easily becomes a feral and invasive plant, which is often the case in places like Australia, the Galápagos Islands, and New Zealand. In the United States, peppermint has a history of turning into an invasive species. This was what happened in the Great Lakes region in 1843.
Dried and powdered spearmint come in plastic or glass bottles, or a plastic pack.
Enjoying Dried Mints
When you eat food that has dried mint, you will notice the distinct sweet flavor that is not without a cool aftertaste. Like most dried herbs, you would hardly notice dried mint in your mouth when you are eating because these are usually crushed into very small pieces of dried leaves.
By eating food that uses dried mint as one of the ingredients, the body has absorbed the nutrients it provides. But there is also another way to absorb the essence of dried mint besides eating it. Drinking dried mint tea has many benefits including helping a person to calm down. However, not all dried mint is good for tea. Some are good, while some are not recommended. Peppermint leaves have a very powerful flavor that makes them undesirable, unlike spearmint leaves, orange mint leaves, or ginger mint which make for a great dried mint one can use to make tea.
Store dried mint in a container with a lid and always close the lid. Store this container in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight because dried mint exposed to sunlight for long periods is prone to quickly lose its flavor.
Dried mint is used in making chutney and pesto. Dried mint is also a suitable herb to add when cooking curries, casseroles, or stews. It is also a good addition to the rub used for meat when roasting, grilling, or frying. Lastly, improve the flavor of any vegetable dish with a sprinkle of dried mint.
Mint is not commonly consumed in large quantities as you would other herbs or vegetables; nonetheless, mint leaves are rich in nutrients. Mint contains vitamin A which helps improve eye health and vision. Mint is a beneficial herb. It can help with digestive problems like indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Mint also helps boost our brain function. It is used to alleviate cold as well as a useful remedy for curing bad breath.
Unfortunately, the drying process results in lost nutrients. However, this does not mean that dried mint is nutritionally worthless. Dried mints can still be a source of vitamins and minerals.
Dried spearmint, for example, is a good source of vitamins (A, C, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, folate, and Vitamin B6), minerals (zinc, phosphorus, calcium, and iron), dietary fiber, protein, antioxidants. It is low on saturated fat as well as cholesterol. Dried peppermint contains vitamins A and C, dietary fiber, niacin, phosphorus, zinc, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese. Other varieties of dried mints often possess nearly the same nutrition profile as these two.