The robust flavor and smell of fresh cut herbs is something we never forget. Be it cut from our own garden or offered by a friend from their’s. Packaged, store bought can rarely compare in color, aroma or flavor and once you have tried garden grown it is hard to use the store bought afterwards. Mint is no exception.
I have been growing most of my own herbs in our garden for many years. They are the easiest part of gardening as they require a lot less care than a lot of the vegetables we grow. One of the nice things is that most herbs grow as well in pots as in the ground and it’s nice to be able to move them around, use them for decoration on the patio or bring indoors.
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Labiatae is the botanical name for mint and there are so many varieties. Some are simply ornamental while others are grown as shrubs but the variety we see most are plants and generally used in food, drink and oils.
Most common are peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, lavender, mint and lemon mint. But there are more. Ginger mint, banana mint, strawberry mint, Egyptian mint, and apple mint — just to name a few. While they all sound yummy you would think they would also be colorful but nearly all of them are a shade of green. There will be a variation of textures, leaf shapes -and- aroma and taste.
Most of our local nursery’s will have a variety of mint plants. I visited one yesterday and picked up some lime and strawberry mint. I have read about bubblegum mint and hummingbird mint, but I have never seen either available in our local greenhouse’s. However, I plan to keep looking. If you have bought or used hummingbird or bubblegum mint .. I hope you will drop a comment and let us know how you liked them.
If you have never grown mint one of the first things we need to know is that nearly all “mints” are extremely invasive. Its roots run underground and can send up shoots many feet away from the mother plant. In this way, it will happily take over any surrounding area so it is best to plant mint in containers or other contained areas.
Mint is a easy herb to grow. Most mint plants grow up to 1 or 2 feet tall and do not require much in the way of care. You can clip off shoots and it will grow right back pretty quickly. It likes sun but will do fine in partial shade, especially in area’s with a really hot summer sun. It likes moist and well drained soil.
Mint has a lot of medicinal benefits that I doubt many of us knew about. I has a high antioxidant content and contains vitamins A, B2 and C, as well as minerals like zinc, calcium, copper and magnesium. Some reported benefits of mint leaves are that it helps clear up congestion, helps with digestion, relieves nausea, and helps with allergy symptoms.
One of my favorite things about mint is that it’s an economical and effective, nontoxic insect deterrent. Particularly useful in keeping mosquitoes, ants, and flies at bay. I like to plant some up and keep it on the back deck where we like to spend a lot of time. It does help to thin out the mosquito herd. Sometimes I even pinch off a few leaves and squeeze them to bring out the strong odor and rub it on my arms.
Of course, you can always purchase peppermint essential oils, mix it with a carrier oil and use that. Some essential oil companies make pre-mixed blends of oils for various things. I use one called Bug Away that works pretty well.
Or grow it from seed: Mint takes about 2 weeks to germinate and you can start it indoors or straight to the garden or container. However, starter plants are so inexpensive and plentiful at the nursery’s that I find it easier to just buy some. I paid $2. each for the starters I bought yesterday.
I rarely dry and store mint but when I do I dry outside on the patio most of the time and it takes from a few days to a week or more depending on the weather and how much humidity is in the air. If we are having to much rain then I will dry indoors. A lot of times the house is much dryer than outdoors depending on the weather. You can tell when its done as it will crackle into pieces between your fingers. Once that is done it’s time to store it.
I cut it long enough that I can tie a bundle at one end and hang to dry. We also pick fresh leaves to use throughout the growing season and sometimes will pick just the leaves to dry. In that case I use a herb drying rack. Or if your just drying a little you can place the leaves on a plate and set aside in a cool, dry place until dry.
It’s best to store your dried herbs in airtight containers in a cool dark place. Canning jars or jam jars work very well and they come in various sizes from 4 oz and up and are cost effective as we can use them over and over and for a great variety of things. You can even buy amber colored canning jars but they seem to be a bit spendy. It’s a good idea to label and date the jars. If you notice the slightest sign of mold — toss them because it will only spread. This should not be a problem if we dry them thoroughly.
Uses for Mint: We generally think of mint with lamb but there is many other ideas. I love a couple fresh leaves in a cold glass of lemonade or iced tea. Add a few chopped leaves to your salad, salsa and scrambled eggs. Try it in some cream cheese. Make your own mint tea. Mint jelly of course and with the lamb. Here is a recipe for Jalapeño Mint Jelly
What kind of mint do you grow? What do you use yours for? Would love to hear about it in the comments.
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