Mint is one of those herbs gardeners just can’t live without. For centuries mint has been used as a cure for indigestion, bug repellent, seasoning, flavoring in drinks, and scenting potpourri. A sprig of mint in a tall glass of ice tea or glass of Mint Julep hits the spot!
Mint is relatively easy to grow. My grandmother used to grow her mint under the water facet. Because mint thrives in moist soil. In the wild you will find mint growing along river or creek banks. I grow mine near a facet or down spout, a place that gets more water than other spots.
If mint is happy, it will take over your garden. It is best to plant mint in a pot or place metal borders around the roots to keep them from spreading. You can even bury a pot to keep the mint controlled. Of course the best way is to give mint it's own garden plot to let it grow till it's heart's content.
The extended mint family includes basil, summer savory and marjoram. But the mint I want to talk about are the mentha varieties. This includes Spearmint, Peppermint, Applemint, Pineapple mint, Orange mint, Chocolate mint, and wild native mints, like the many varieties of mountain mint. Mint is a hardy perennial. It will die back in the winter then return in spring. It is best to propagate it from cuttings rather than start from seeds. It will easily root in water. You may not get the exact mint you want starting them from seeds.
Here are a few types of mint that we carry at Moore & Moore.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
Most of us know this mint as a flavor of chewing gum. It is very popular of the mints and does well in many dishes as it is milder than peppermint. It has larger leaves that make it handy in many dishes.
Spearmint has bright green leaves that are shaped like spearheads. It can grow up to 2 feet tall.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
The beautiful mint has dark green leaves with purple stems. This plant is perfect for tea and medicinal uses. Some things that peppermint may do is:
* relieve digestive symptoms, such as gas, bloating and indigestion.
* acts as a muscle relaxant and pain reliever, it may diminish certain types of headaches .
* Breath freshener
* Peppermint has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Because of this, peppermint tea may fight clogged sinuses due to infections, the common cold and allergies
* Peppermint tea may improve energy levels and reduce daytime fatigue.
* Because peppermint acts as a muscle relaxant, it may relieve menstrual cramps
* While there are no studies on the antibacterial effects of peppermint tea, peppermint oil has been shown to effectively kill bacteria.
Applemint (Mentha rotundifolia)
This is an older type of mint that most grandmothers like to use. It has similar flavor to spearmint. The leaves tend to wilt faster after cutting than other mints. This plant grows up to 3 feet.
Pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens ‘Variegata’)
This plant has a lovely ripe pineapple taste, it has as leaves that are green and yellow. It is the prettiest of the mints and works well in a hanging basket with a nice scent. This mint can be used in dishes and drinks. Deer will not eat this because of the taste and hair in the leaves.
Orange mint (Mentha x piperita ‘Citrata’)
This mint is also known as bergamot mint or lavender mint . The scent of this plant seems to vary from plant to plant. Probably why it has so many names. This is a wonderful mint in teas, salads and in potpourri. It is a great mint in Mint Juleps. This plant has dark green leaves and can grow 2 feet tall.
Chocolate mint (Mentha x piperita ‘chocolate’)
This mint is one of my favorites because it does smell like a chocolate covered mint patty. This is a great mint to use in sweet desert recipes. This also has dark green leaves but only reaches 18 inches in height.
Mountain mint (Pycnanthemum)
This group of mints are the native wild mints.
Mountain mints grow wild in north America and are considered native pollinators. In summer these plants have blooms that will be covered in bees and butterflies.
There are over 20 different varieties of mountain mints, but these are the more common kinds that you can find at some garden centers. Moore & Moore will carry at least one of these;
Hoary mountain mint, Short-tooth mountain mint, narrow-leaf mountain mint or Virginia mountain mint. All produce flowers and are medicinally used teas and oils.
All mountain mints work great in perennial gardens and are not as invasive as their mint cousins. They can grow up to 5 feet tall, which would be a great addition to most perennial butterfly gardens.
Spring is just around the corner and if you are anything like me you are ready to get outside and get your hands dirty. We have about 6 weeks before we will be getting herbs in the garden center, but now is the time to plan.
See you soon!