Friday

How to Grow Mojito Mint (Mentha x villosa)

If you're into sunny latitudes and an afternoon pause that refreshes in a big way, you've probably tried a mojito -- one of the most popular new tropical beverages around. It's made with mint, and the directions require "muddling" or crushing the leaves in the bottom of the glass.

Mojitos are tasty, but if you're a mint connoisseur, you may not be able to place that light aroma and mild but satisfying bite. That's because the Cuban origins of this drink call for a special mint unique to the island. The mint question can get dicey. Some references cite spearmint as the first mint used for the classic mojito, while others are adamant it was the milder Mentha x villosa. Mojitos are pretty tasty either way, and I even like them with peppermint, chocolate mint or apple mint.

How to Grow Mojito Mint

Where a few years ago it was rare, you can find Cuban mojito mint through most online herb suppliers these days. Give it a loamy spot that gets good morning light and some afternoon shade (or dappled light). It likes soil that drains well and remains uniformly moist during the hottest part of the day.

Many mints prefer similar conditions, which makes mojito mint pretty predictable if you've grown mint before. I keep mine around our home's downspout. When it rains, the mints are the first to receive the bounty, and the addition of sand to the soil insures good drainage. Mojito mint can spread out quite a bit, becoming invasive. One way to control the sprawl is to give this plant a big pot and then bury the pot in your flowerbed. You'll have decent growth but less risk of its taking over your landscape. If you think providing consistent moisture will be a problem, mulch the area around the pot in summer and fall.

Harvesting and using Mojito Mint

Harvest leaves once the plant is 8 to 10 inches tall. A good rule of thumb is to limit harvesting to a third of the plant at a time. Wait for at least that much growth before harvesting again. Once the plant is established in the garden, this shouldn't be a problem. For the best flavor, harvest leaves in the morning before the hot sun hits them. You can keep stems in a glass of water until you're ready to use them.

Mojito mint is popular, so don't be surprised if your friends, even the plant assassins you'd never expect it of, ask you for a plant start.

If the idea of making a mojito sounds downright inspired, you can find my recipe here: The Magnificent Mint Mojito

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Image 1 - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File:Mojito_made_with_rum,_lime,_sugar,_mint,_club_soda,_served_
By Evan Swigart from Chicago, USA (Mojito) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons MojitoWiki.jpg
Image 2 – Mojito Mint - Photo courtesy of Bad Alley and taken on July 1, 2009 using a Panasonic DMC-FX33. http://www.flickr.com/photos/badalley/3679303213/ mojitomintflickr.jpg

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