Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Great Apple Mint Harvest

This year I planted Apple mint, which quickly became my favorite variety thus far. Peppermint and Spearmint are too pointed about their flavors, almost caustic, and Orange mint doesn’t seem to do it for me either. Chocolate mint just reminds me of going to the dentist when I was younger, as for some reason that was the universal toothpaste flavor at the time (am I dating myself?) Anyhow, I wanted a lighter, sweeter flavor that could be used in a variety of ways instead of only in specific recipes, and Apple mint is my new bestest friend.
   Except that, just like all of the others, she has this ‘me, me, me!” habit of spreading uncontrollably no matter what I do! I intentionally planted 2 seedlings in a 1 1/2 x 4 foot bed with dividers down to the ground, thinking that this would keep them contained. What was I on? I dug up an entire plant and gave it to a friend. Then I dug up another and potted it for the greenhouse. Wait, that’s 2 right?  - why are there about 74 left? I am seeing roots in other beds, over, under, through cracks in wood. Never again! From now on, mint will only be potted in my garden, and that goes for verbena, too. In fact, I’m issuing an ultimatum for eternity: All Herbs Will Be Potted!
     I know that I can’t leave these mint root remnants behind to haunt me in the spring, but they are tough to deal with. I even resorted to a pruning saw when I realized that I should just get JP to use his reciprocating saw, as he never says ‘no’ to a chore that involves that tool (except that he’s not yet willing to help me saw my old van in half so that I can make a mobile greenhouse; more on that another day.) But, then I found something buried so snugly in all of that perennial mess – a toad. A hibernating, sleeping, sluggishly hungover, little toad. I roused him a few times, but he’s practically comatose, it doesn’t seem fair to ask him to find somewhere else to live out the winter. So, I’ll deal with the mint in the spring, after I propagate a bunch to sell at the farmers market. Look at that – I just made some Toad Flavored Lemonade!
So, what to do with this end of the season mint? Well, for starters, I’d like to make lip balm with some harvested beeswax. I have not gotten much honey to date, but somehow I’ve managed to sequester a lot of wax through the crush and strain method (video tutorial from Beekeeper Linda’s blog – my favorite beekeeping site!) I filled a quart jar with clean, dry apple mint leaves and grapeseed oil a couple of days ago, as well as another jar with rosemary. This will be my first time making lip balm, so I’ve decided to use a fairly basic recipe. I have a decent idea about what to expect, as I made a swarm lure from Beekeeper Linda’s site this summer (wax, olive oil, and lemongrass oil,) which I mostly used to polish my floor. So, lip balm for me will be: wax, apple mint oil, rosemary oil, and honey. The ratio is usually more oil than wax, so if need be, I’ll add either extra jojoba and/or sweet almond oil, as I have some of each of those around. 1:1 wax to oil should make a harder balm, but I’m using tubes, so maybe that’s okay? We are about to find out…… 

I used about 25 ounces of filtered beeswax, which I melted in an old crockpot that I got for $5. They are easy to find, and the main point here is that you really don't want to use any of your regular kitchen utensils for this project. The first thing I realized is that 25 ounces is about 4 times too much  - next time, I'll use 8 ounces which will yield about 50 tubes (I bought mine online.) Also, grating the wax first would make it melt much faster. I added a total of 37 ounces of oil, but a different ration would have yielded a smoother gliding balm, like 2:1 oil to wax; mine came out a bit too hard. I added 4 tablespoons of honey, which seemed fine. Half of this mixture is currently in my refrigerator (as I didn't have 400 lip balm tubes on hand - guess what everyone is getting for the Holidays this year?) so when I re-melt the mixture, I'll add more oil, some vitamin E, and also a few drops of essential oil as my flavors were somewhat faint. Here it is:

At the end, I separated a small amount of the mixture and melted about 1/2 inch of lipstick into it, pouring it into a few tubes I had set aside. You can see one of those in the glass towards the back. I found it to mostly be a waste of lipstick, but I admit that it wasn't a well thought out process! And I was kind of wasting that lipstick, anyhow...
I still have more mint to tackle, so check back soon!


  1. Your blog on great apple mint harvest looks wonderful. How do I go about growing the same in my own garden?

  2. Thanks! I have never started mint from seed as it grows rampant where I live in Zone 4.The plants are usually relatively cheap, especially at farmers markets and fundraiser sales (a local library here has a good plant sale each Spring) but you may have to look at a larger garden center for a wider selection of varieties, such as Apple Mint. To propagate a cutting, should you know someone with a plant, snip off about 3 inches from the parent (removing the lower leaves) and then place the cutting in water for about a week. You'll see roots form and know that it's time to plant in your garden - or better yet, a pot!


Please feel free to leave a message. Haikus are always appreciated.

Related Posts with Thumbnails