Mint is the first herb I ever saw growing in the ground. I was about ten and brushed up against it at the nursery where my mother was shopping for edging plants. I was shocked that a plant could smell so strong, and be so true to the aroma I most associated it with – candy canes and gum; both big winners in my book.
That chance encounter started my life long interest in herbs. I've kept many of the mints over the years, even making my own juleps by following the directions from an old recipe where it cautioned the would-be mixologist to "muddle the leaves in the bottom of the glass".
Keeping Mint in the Garden
Most mints are hardy perennials that can be invasive in the garden. Sending out feelers that root easily, mint will happily choke out anything else growing in the same plot with it. To curb its enthusiasm for expansion, keep mint varieties in a large pot or mesh bag that you have buried in the flowerbed, or enclose it with edging to a depth of five inches or so. Apply mulch to the bed or around the plot to discourage rooting.
Mint likes dappled shade and consistent moisture. Although I've read that it thrives in alkaline soil, I've found that it will be happy almost anywhere it doesn't dry out. Optimal conditions would be areas that are well drained but moist, receiving morning sun but at least partial shade in the afternoon heat.
Plant mints fifteen inches apart, and thin them regularly. If you want to keep multiple varieties, try to plant them in different beds to discourage cross pollination.
Growing Mint Indoors
I overwinter a bit of mint near a window that gets good morning sun. The sprigs root easily, and the plant thrives with an occasional drop of liquid fertilizer. Keep plants away from heating vents though, because the dry heat indoors can be hard on them. In May, I pot them out along with my other starters. This works well for chives too.
Mint can also be grown from seed, stems or root cuttings. The problem usually isn't getting mint to thrive, it's keeping it contained.
Harvest mint sprigs in spring before flowering. To extend the harvesting season, pinch back buds.
Uses for Mint
Mint makes a tea that's great for stomach upsets. It is a welcome ingredient in desserts and as a garnish. It can be added to bath water as a pick-me-up before an evening out, and is also one of the primary ingredients in the famous mint julep and mint jelly recipes. For a refreshing change, mint can be delicious with vegetables like peas and carrots, or included in a fruit salad.
There are lots of mint varieties to choose from too, like: apple mint, peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint and others.
Labels: Spearmint from my garden