A Guide To Mint

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Mint is an attractive, low-growing perennial that has a pleasant taste and emits a refreshing fragrance in the garden. But, mint can become invasive if it is allowed to grow freely. This makes mint the perfect addition to a container herb garden. Most varieties of mint grow well in containers and can be grown indoors or outside.

Mint Varieties

There are many different varieties of mint and each variety has its own unique flavor. Here is a sample of some common mint varieties:

  • Peppermint is the favorite mint for candies and chewing gums. Use young and tender mint leaves for teas, mint water and garnishes. Older leaves and stems tend to be bitter.
  • Spearmint and curly mint are a versatile mint in the kitchen and complement most any meat, vegetable and fruit.
  • Apple mint has a slightly apple taste. Other flavored mint varieties include pineapple and chocolate.
  • Pennyroyal can be used as a groundcover.
  • Corsican mint has small leaves and grows well in rock gardens or between paving stones.
  • Water mint has heart shaped leaves and a very strong scent.

Uses For Mint

Mint is an extremely aromatic addition to any dish and has many uses in the kitchen. Mint is high in fiber, iron, calcium and magnesium. Dried mint has a higher nutritional content than fresh mint. Mint also has many medicinal uses. It is most commonly used to aid digestion problems such as indigestion and colic. Peppermint is the most effective mint to aid digestion but spearmint and pennyroyal are also helpful.

Here are some unusual and interesting ways to use mint:

  • Settle an upset stomach or relieve that gassy feeling. Sip a cup of mint tea or heat a cup of milk with a couple of mint leaves.
  • Cool off on a hot day. Chew on a peppermint leaf, breathe in through your mouth and feel the coolness.
  • Refresh the air. Hang bunches of fresh mint around the house for a pleasing fragrance and cool feeling.
  • Make a pitcher of mint water. Bruise or muddle one cup of mint, add to a half-gallon container, fill with water and chill in the refrigerator.
  • Toss a quick salad. Mix chopped mint in plain yogurt and pour over sliced cucumbers.
  • As a salt substitute. Add dried spearmint or curly mint to split pea soup for a different flavor experience.
  • Brew an herbal vinegar. Add mint and orange peel to a favorite vinegar.
  • Relieve a headache. Crush fresh peppermint leaves and apply to the forehead.
  • Smooth chapped skin. Wash skin with spearmint tea.
  • As a groundcover. Grow a hardy mint, such as peppermint or apple mint, in large patches. Mow when the plant starts to flower to create a dense minty lawn.
  • Repel garden pests. Spearmint and peppermint repel aphids, flea beetles and cabbage pests. Pennyroyal is a deterrent for mice and rodents.

How To Grow Mint

Mint is one of those plants where you’ll definitely get enough. Mint is an extremely hardy plant that can take over an area if not cut back on a regular schedule. If mint is allowed to spread, it can quickly crowd out other plants. To keep mint under control, plant in a container or place some type of edging around the plant to limit the plant’s ability to spread.

It is best to start a mint plant as a transplant or from a cutting or root division. Mint seeds cross-breed easily and seedlings may not resemble the parent plant. Cuttings can be rooted in a well-drained potting soil or in a glass of water.

Here are a few tips for planting mint:

  • Plant in an area that has partial sun and partial shade.
  • Mint prefers a moist, well-drained soil.
  • Do not add compost or manure to the soil around the mint plant.
  • Plant transplants in the spring.
  • Divide established plants in the fall.
  • Take cuttings during the summer.
  • Prune plants frequently to maintain a bushy shape.
  • Cut plants to the ground in late fall and cover with a layer of straw or pine needles.
  • Repot container grown plants every year.
  • Plants become woody and less productive after five years.
  • Mint pests include spider mites, root borers, grasshoppers, cutworms and aphids.
  • Mint diseases include verticillium wilt, mint rust and mint anthracnose.

Harvesting & Storing Mint

Mint should not be allowed to flower. When the plants produce flowers, the oil content in the leaves decreases and the plant loses flavor. All herbs, including mint, should be harvested in the morning after the dew has evaporated but before the heat of the day. Here’s how to harvest mint:

  • Use a clean and sharp knife or scissors to remove leaves and stems.
  • Stems can be cut to within an inch of the soil.
  • To capture the most flavor, use the young and tender leaves.

Here are a few tips for storing mint:

  • Store stems of fresh mint in a glass of water (cut flower style) and place in the refrigerator.
  • Dry mint by hanging bundled stems of leaves in a warm and shaded location. Or, spread leaves on a screen to dry.
  • Place chopped mint leaves in an ice cube tray, cover with water and freeze.
Last Updated: August 16, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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