At Peppermint Jim and Crosby Mint Farms, we grow three varieties of mint: Black Mitchum Peppermint, Murray Peppermint and a Native Spearmint. These are classified as true mints, non adulterated or patented. This is important, as not all mints are oil producing. Although mint is classified as a weed, (which often leads to a love-hate relationships with many gardeners *), it is also a popular herb used all over the world for its flavor, aroma and therapeutic benefits.
(* use containers or at least 7 inch deep borders when you grow mint, unless you want to become colleagues!)
Since the flowers of mint are sterile, the plants propagate through the root stock, which helps it spread fast and wide. When we harvest, we do not kill the plants and we are proud to say that some of our stock stems from the days of Jim’s grandfather.
It is the flowering process however that tells us the mint is ready for harvest; the delicate purple blossoms will form at the tops as an indicator for maturity. This means that the oil in the glands of the leaves is there, and it is at its peak.
During harvest, the mint is cut in rows, very similar to the way hay or alfalfa is mowed, and left to cure in the fields for a couple of days. It then gets picked up and blown into rolling mint tanks, that hold about an acre of plant material and taken to the distillery. Our oils are acquired through steam distillation. It is pressure and steam that extracts the oil from the leaves before it is pumped through a cold water condenser and into the receiving cans. From there, it goes into the barrel and from the barrel it goes into the bottle, or in our other mint products. The process of distillation is artisan, hands-on and there is no manual! The knowledge was passed on from generation to generation since 1912.