The Wisconsin Mint Industry
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Once the grower has successfully battled inclement weather,
disease, weeds and insects, the mature crop is ready to be harvested and
distilled into oil. The harvesting
season for mint is Mid-June to late September, depending on the crop and the
Beginning in August when the crop matures, windrowers are
used to mow 14-foot swaths down the mint field, leaving a mounded row of
“hay” or cut mint. The hay is
left to dry in the field for 24-36 hours. Then
the hay is picked up by a mechanical mint chopper and blown into a mint tub.
During the harvest season, the mint tubs roll steadily from the fields to the distillery. Here the oil is extracted from the leaves by steam distillation. Boilers provide the pressurized steam connected to a pressurized steam line which forces steam though tubes that line the bottom of the mint tub. As the steam is released through tiny holes in the tubes, it rises through the hay and the mint oil is vaporized. The oil and steam vapors then pass through an outgoing vapor line at the top of the tub. From here the vapors are piped to water-cooled condensers where they return to a liquid state. In the separator, the oil rises to the top and is drawn into 55 gallon drums, while the water is drained from the bottom of the separator.