Once again the time is at hand to haul out my dear ol' dehydrator from the basement pantry and begin it's job for the harvest season! I have been gathering mint in the early mornings to dry for soothing cups of tea come winter time, and I still need to find time to put up a batch or two of Mint Jelly. Nothing soothes a sore throat or upset tummy around here, or offers simple comfort to a winter-weary soul, as does a cup (or two!) of Mint Tea and toast with Mint Jelly!
It is a good best to gather your mint early in the morning before the sun beats on the herb for too great a time... you want it as fresh- tasting and as full of it's essential components as possible. And as always, organically grown is preferable. This basketful of assorted mint produced almost a 1/2 gallon jar of dried Mint Tea leaves. So, gather your mint sprigs...
This is Apple Mint... my favorite for tea and jelly, and it grows in abundance (and spreads as heartily!) here on wildenblue Farm. It is sweet and has a subtle appley overtone to the mint flavor. I believe I purchased this years ago from Tinmouth Channel Herb Farm in Vermont, but alas, they are no longer in business.
This is common Peppermint, and it does not flourish as profusely as the Apple mint does here. Yet it provides me with enough to blend with the Apple Mint. It has a sharper, stronger flavor, as Peppermint does, when compared to the Apple Mint, and i wouldn't want it to overbear the flavor anyhow, so it all works well! I also throw in a bit of Spearmint when I can find it... some years are better than others! Remember, there is no rhyme or reason to exact measurements,,, use what you think tastes wonderfully to you! And you can also gather any number of other herbs that you prefer, such as Catnip, Rose Petals, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Bee Balm flower petals and leaves... you are limited only by your tastebuds! Just be certain that any of the herbs you use have not been sprayed or treated with any chemicals.
Once I've gathered what seems good, I thoroughly rinse the stems in fresh cool water to remove any dirt or bugs that may be attached to the plant material. Swish and spray well and often. I then pick up small sections of stems and take them out on the porch for a good shake to remove as much of the water as possible. Next, pluck the leaves from the stems, being alert to any unpalatable- looking foilage, which you can toss in the compost along with the stems (They tend to be bitter when brewed). When you are finished, you can place all the leaves in a layer on a clean dish towel and gently press off any remaining moisture, but this is not an absolutely necessary step.
Now place the leaves in a single layer on the dehydrator trays and dry til crisp. I turn my trays after about two hours and continue to dry til done. Once dry, I store the tea mixture in half-gallon canning jars with the metal lids; plastic containers will allow moisture and impart odd flavors to your tea, so do not use them. As I fill the jars with the dried mint, I compress and crumple the leaves GENTLY to compact it a bit.... but remember, you do not want powdered tea leaves!
To brew, simply fill both sides of a mesh tea ball or a stainless perforated tea-spoon with tea leaves and let sit in a cup of boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes. Sweeten with honey, sugar or stevia, and a bit of cream if desired. Enjoy!
Perhaps I should not mention this, but here goes (I can be a very frugal woman!) When I have brewed my cuppa, I set the tea spoon/ ball aside for my next cup and brew the same way, perhaps for a minute or two longer. Your second cup of tea will not be quite as strong as the first cup, but it will still be good.