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H&N photos by Andrew Mariman  ABOVE: Don Kirby watches as mint oil is extracted at the University of California's Interior Mountain Research and Extension Center's distillery.
First run for mint still
Kinks resolved, equipment will aid research
By Ty Beaver, Herald and News 8/17/06
The Intermountain Research and Extension Center had an opportunity to use one of its newer pieces of equipment last week. 

With the harvest of the centerís first peppermint trial crops, staff began to use the still, purchased last year for the center, to distill the oil from the plants as part of the centerís experiments. Despite some unexpected problems, the still is expected to be useful as the center continues to research mint, director Harry Carlson said. 

Unlike commercial stills that can process thousands of pounds of mint at a time, the still at the center uses batches of 30 pounds, Carlson said. The center grows smaller amounts of mint so it can more effectively track results for its experiments, thus producing smaller harvests. 


Harvesting and mechanical problems did come up through the stillís first run. The centerís mint matured more quickly than expected, causing harvest to occur with more mature mint than desired.

ďWeíll know more about late rather than early harvests with this harvest,Ē Carlson said.

The still itself had problems with the boiler and several other pieces of equipment.

Staff were able to fix the mechanical difficulties and are now aware of what to do with the next harvest, Carlson said. The still will continue to be operated for the next two weeks.

Corey Thompson loads bags of dried mint into the distillery.

Corey Thompson removes the lid, releasing steam from the pots the mint in which is cooked. After the batch is distilled the mint is discarded.
Don Kirby eyes a syringe of mint extract at a research distillery in Tulelake. The distillery is one of four mint distilleries in the area, but unlike the others, the Tulelake location is used largely as a research facility for the University of Californiaís Interior Mountain Research and Extension Center.
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