Steam flows from the boiler, through the steam line into pipes in the bottom of the tub. The steam moves up through the mint hay, taking the mint oil off as a vapor, and moves into the condenser. In the condenser the steam and mint oil vapor are cooled to water and mint oil. The water and mint oil flow into the separating can. The oil rises to the top and flows into the drum. The water leaves the separating can, flows into the used water tank, and is sprinkled onto the lawn. Water pumped from the river cools the steam and oil vapor in the condenser. This heat transfer turns the cold water hot. Some of the hot water feeds the boiler. The rest goes into the used water tank.
Boilers: Most boilers are natural gas fired. They operate at 110 to 120 psi. The steam and water in them are about 340 degrees.
Mint Tubs: The tubs have five one inch pipes on the floor, with holes drilled in them to distribute the steam evenly to the load of mint hay. Tubs pull on the fifth wheel of a truck, or the fifth wheel dolly behind the chopper.
Condensers: Condensers are set to cool the steam and peppermint vapor to about 114 degrees. This is where the mint oil and water separate well.
Cooking: It takes 30 to 45 minutes for the steam to "break" through the hay in the tub. Then the hay is "cooked" about another hour. Normally a tub will yield 90 to 100 pounds of oil.
Crops: Peppermint, spearmint and dill are grown and distilled in our valley. There are other essential oils extracted by steam distillation.
Rainbow Gardens - 2500 Whitefish Stage - Kalispell MT 59901 - http://rainbowgardens.net
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