There’s not many life experiences that I enjoy more than the smell of the wild peppermint on a humid July afternoon. I enjoy it so much that I combed through weeds along my creek and collected the peppermint to transplant to the edges of my garden. It wasn’t long before the peppermint just went crazy and took over the whole vegetable bed. Then it outpaced the grass in that section of the yard. And I loved every bit of it! I carefully kept the mint out of vegetables by removing the whole plant and keeping the stems and leaves to cure by hanging upside down in a cool dark place. We have a tendency to say that we “dry” the leaves and roots that we use for teas but when it’s done right it’s more of a curing process that preserves the oils in the plant. When you search the internet for ways to cure fresh mint leaves most of them involve heat. It’s suggested to put them in oven or even the microwave but I’ve never really trusted this. The mint oil is volatile and dissipates when heated. Drying the leaves with heat will make your house smell good but that smell is the very oils that you re trying to preserve escaping into the atmosphere. A slower, cooler process means that the leaves will retain more of the oils. How long to hang them really depends on the environment. In humid air it’s going to take a little longer than if the weather is dry. In general, a couple of days should be good. Just keep an eye on them and when they have the texture and feel of a good tea they’re ready. They should be dry enough to prevent mold. You can place the cured leaves in a clean mason jar but don’t screw the lid down too tight. The jar can still have moisture in it and set up conditions for mold to grow.
The reasons for foraging any wild mint should be pretty obvious. Mints are big part of tea blends and candies but it’s also a big part some high end Gourmet food. I like my meals pretty simple but I’ve seen different mints incorporated in salads, pastas, fish and of course mint and lamb is a classic combination.
Medical uses are also pretty well known. Mints were and still are one of the mainstays of herbalism. Menthol is known to have antiseptic properties and mint was used to wash wounds to prevent infections. In researching for this article I even came across a commercial product that uses peppermint oil as a base for sterilizing textiles.
As a digestive aid peppermint is said to relax the digestive muscles and provide relief from dyspepsia.
Mints are also used in balms which was the inspiration for the title of tonight’s feature image. I couldn’t help but think about the need for healing when I noticed the condition of the little butterfly’s wings. I had to wonder if he landed on the mints to sooth his tattered wings.
Peppermint and mints in general are said to be antiviral and specifically the milder herpes viruses that cause cold sores.
One of the things that I like to use the wild mints for is pest control. When outdoors in places where I’m likely to encounter mosquitoes and gnats I rub down with a few mint leaves to keep them at bay. A good trick that I picked up from Tom Brown Jr’s books is to stuff a few mint leaves into the trim on a hat and that reduces the number of gnats in my face. A simple spray of lemon scented herbs such as Spicebush leaves and mints can be misted around camps and picnic areas. Make a tincture of the herbs by soaking them in vodka or grain alcohol for several days. Then I’d mix it 50/50 with water and place it in misting bottle and refresh as needed.
I suppose that a whole series could be done on mints and we may revisit them at a later date.
My Forage Friday posts are really just to get people interested enough to look up what these plants can be used for and to share ideas so please remember to do further research and never rely on a single source for information. I’m not a medical professional so any of the medicinal uses stated here are just anecdotal.
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