We drink a lot of teas around here. Black, white, green or herb (a lot of herb) on a daily basis. This year and last, I decided to include more herbs for tea in the herb and salad garden (focusing on both herbs that we use for tea regularly and herbs for medicinal uses) in an effort to save a bit of money while enjoying the superior flavors of homegrown ingredients. (I know that technically speaking, herb "teas" are called "tisanes", but for the sake of this post, we will call them teas.)
Above you see my humble peppermint patch, running wild at the base of an old rose bush. Peppermint really needs it's own spot, as it will quickly take over the area in which it is planted. A few sprigs planted this year will give you all the tea you need by next.
Peppermint can be used fresh for tea, but we like to dry it for the sake of convenience. When picking peppermint to dry, we cut long stems and remove any yellowed or bug nibbled leaves.
Even though I grow everything organically, I still like to clean the dust off by soaking the mint for 10 - 15 minutes in a bowl of cool, clean water. This also works to drown any tiny buggly creatures that you may not want in your tea.
After soaking and gently swishing the stems, shake off as much of the water as possible and spread them out on a clean towel (turning occasionally) until the leaves are dry from their washing. Don't leave them there too long, about 30 minutes or so. The whole room will smell pleasantly minty.
There are several ways to dry your herbs (Using a dehydrator or low temp oven, for example.), but this is the way we do it because it is simple and can be done by the kiddos also. We just bundle the stems into small bundles and secure them with rubberbands. Be careful not to put too many stems in the bundles because you want the air to get to all the leaves so they won't stay moist and mold.
I like using rubberbands so that as the stems shrink, they will not fall. I make little hooks out of paperclips and hang the bundles from a clothes hanger out of direct sunlight for 3 - 4 days or until the leaves feel crispy and dry.
next: Storing and brewing!