In my garden at home I’ve declared this year, “The year of Mint”! I added many mint varieties to my garden & have enjoyed learning about this herb. My favorite varieties have been strawberry mint, catmint, penny royal, chocolate mint and the classics: peppermint & spearmint. I’ve enjoyed many a few cups of homegrown mint tea, and I hope this article inspires you to do the same!
-Genus is Mentha, family is Lamiaceae (other family members are basil, rosemary, sage, oregano & catnip). There are 13-18 estimated species of mint. Hybridization between some mint species occurs naturally. There are well over 30 varieties of mint.
-Mint is found growing across the world, in Europe, Africa, Asia, N. America, and Austria. There were even traces of mint was even found in an Egyptian tomb!
-The name “mint” comes from a Greek myth.. As the story goes, there was a mythological Greek character named Minthe. She was a river nympth that Hades fell in love with. Hades wife learned of their affair & turned Minthe into a plant so everyone would walk all over her & crush her. Hades gave the plant a pleasant aroma so he could still enjoy her presence & smell her.
How to prepare/eat/preserve:
-When cooking with mint, add it at the end of cooking to preserve it’s flavor & texture.
-When cutting mint be sure to use a sharp blade & cut gently. If you cut mint with a dull blade you will bruise the leaves & the flavor will be lost on the cutting board.
-Mint Tea: pour boiling hot water over fresh/dry leaves & let steep for 5-6 minutes.
-Add fresh leaves to: salad with ginger & lemon zest, a fruit salad, to a homemade smoothie or juice, to chocolate chip cookie dough, or use them to flavor vinegar or oil. You could also dip fresh mint leaves in melted chocolate & chill in the fridge until hardened.
-Make a Tincture: Chop enough mint leaves to fill a glass jar. Cover with vodka. Shake jar daily for 4 weeks. Strain off mint, and you have a tincture!
-Storing/Preserving: Leaves can be stored in the fridge in a plastic bag/container. Leaves can be frozen in icecubes. Drying: Mint can be dried by tying branches together & hanging upside down in a cool, dark place; when dried store in an airtight jar.
Other Mint uses:
-Use peppermint essential oil on stomach & temples for headaches or on bottoms of feet to break fevers.
-Add mint essential oil or fresh/dried leaves to bath water!
-Mint water is effective in preventing nipple cracks & nipple pain when breast feeding.
-Menthol is the solid constituent of peppermint or corn mint oil. Menthol is used to flavor food products & in products like muscle rubs.
-As a steam: steep mint tea & remove from stove. Drape towel over your head/shoulders & lean over pot taking deep breaths. This should help clear sinuses.
-Sunburn soother: make a strong peppermint tea & cool in fridge. Apply to sunburn with cotton pads.
Medicinal properties of Mint:
-Used traditionally for stomach aches & IBS. It’s thought to increase bile secretion which speeds up & eases digestion.
-Also used for sore throats, chest pain & sore muscles. Mint contains Menthol, a natural decongestant that helps break up mucus & phlegm.
-Mint is high in antioxidants, is anti-inflammatory, and also contains a phytonutrient called perillyl alcohol which is thought to prevent cancer growth.
How to grow it yourself:
-Mint is a Perennial Herb, it can grow year round.
-Mint prefers moist, wet soil that has good drainage. Mint can grow in full sun (as long as soil remains moist) or partial shade.
-Consider mint to be a ground cover – it will spread quickly (some species are even considered invasive!). To prevent this, grow it in a container (12-16” wide is ideal) on a hard surface, or sink your container into the ground.
-Mint plants spread through vegetative reproduction by producing lateral stems, either underground as rhizomes or above grounds as runners.
-Pests: Susceptible to spider mites, flea beetles, cutworms, cabbage loopers, and a few other pests.
-Propagation: Propagating by seed is generally considered unreliable for a few reasons: seeds are highly variable & may not end up being the same as the parent plant, and some mint varieties are sterile. It’s best to propagate by division, or by taking cuttings from the plant or it’s runners. Mint plants will need to be divided every few years, in late winter-early spring.
-Harvesting: You can harvest individual leaves from your plant at any time. Once plant is established you can also pinch off growing tips (leaving one third of each branch). Once mint starts to flower you can cut it down to 1” from the ground. You can generally get 2-3 harvests per season.
Mint products we carry at Deep Roots Market:
-Fresh mint in the produce department.
-Dried Spearmint & Peppermint in bulk herbs & spices.
-Mint tea bags in Wellness.
-Peppermint & Spearmint Essential Oils in Wellness.
-Mint plants: I have a small selection of my homegrown mint available at the co-op! They are selling fast, so pick one up while they are still available!