In the period from 2000 to 2002, studies on peppermint (Mentha x piperita) herb and essential oil (EO) production have been conducted at Planteforsk, Apelsvoll Research Centre Div. Kise in Norway. The trials were aimed at finding the optimal harvest date and suitable drying methods to maximize EO yield and to obtain a desirable oil quality. Peppermint plants from the first production year (2000 and 2001) and the second production year (2002) were harvested during flowering at three developmental stages (early, full, and late bloom). Biomass and leaf production were recorded, and the water content of the plant material was detected after the application of different drying methods: instantaneous drying at 30, 50, and 70 degrees C and prewilting (ground drying) for 1 or 5 days followed by final drying at 30 degrees C. Finally, plant samples were transferred to The Plant Biocentre at NTNU, Trondheim, Norway, for hydrodistillation and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analyses of the EOs. Peppermint oil yield increased from early to full bloom and late bloom (average of all years and drying methods except for 50 and 70 degrees C: 2.95, 4.13 and 4.20 L/daa, respectively) as an effect of biomass production and leaf growth. The flavor-impact compounds, menthol and menthone, reached their optimum at full bloom (43-54 and 12-30%, respectively). Prewilting led to slight decreased EO levels after 1 day (7.7%) and 5 days of ground drying (1.5%) and no EO quality changes, compared to direct drying at 30 degrees C. The plant weight (H2O content) was drastically decreased to the average under 80 and 45% in all years, thus reducing the energy supply and costs for the necessary final drying step.