Mint – Cool and Refreshing
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There is no other herb that refreshes like mint. Popping a few leaves into drinks and meals adds a fragrance and flavour that stimulates the senses and lifts your mood. A sprig of mint happily swimming in an icy glass of your favorite beverage makes you really feel like you are on holiday.
Mint is used as flavouring for everything from toothpaste and chewing gums to alcoholic beverages and herbal teas.
Mint belongs to the family Lamiaceae a very large family in the herb world including other common herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme, basil and oregano.
The name mint comes from the Latin word menthe and Greek word minthe. In Greek mythology it is said that Persephone, jealous of the love her husband Pluto had for the beautiful nymph Minthe turned her into a low growing mint. Pluto unable to undo the spell gave mint its wonderful smell, so that when walked upon she would not be forgotten.
Mint is an aromatic perennial herb, there are many different varieties, most having underground stolons that spread easily through the garden. They have branched square stems, with leaves arranged in opposite pairs. The oblong through to lance shaped leaves, range from smooth to crinkly and some downy, the margins can be smooth or serrate. Colours also vary from pale yellow green to deep dark green through to blue grey. The flowers are white to purple and produced in false whorls.
The substances that give the mints their characteristic aromas and flavors are menthol the main aroma of Peppermint and Japanese menthol mint and pulegone in pennyroyal and Corsican mint. The compound primarily responsible for the aroma and flavor of spearmint is R-carvone.
Old Fashioned Mint
Mint is easy to grow, it likes a medium to rich soil, moist but not wet. While most information suggests growing in shade to part shade, I find the flavour and aroma is much more pronounced in plants that get more sun. If growing mint in full sun you do need to make sure you water regularly.
Mint can be invasive, the strong willed runners can extend far and wide through the garden, for this reason many people prefer to grow mint in pots. Add compost to the potting mix when planting your mint in pots to help the mix retain moisture.
You can also sink a large bottomless container or pot into the garden to plant your mint in, although you will still need to keep an eye on it to ensure it does not jump over the top.
Propagation of mint is best done by cuttings; this ensures that the mint will be the same as the plant you are cutting from. Mint seed can be variable, some mint seeds are sterile and some do not resemble the plant you thought you were getting and it can be very disappointing when the result is a mint with no flavour.
As mint is such a vigorous grower regular feeding with a liquid fertilizer will keep the plant healthy.
Towards the end of winter you can divide plants in pots and give them fresh mix, they do get tired, like a mother who constantly gives to others, but never receives the nourishment to keep up such a vigorous routine.
I find mint tends to grow really well where you don’t want it to, I have a patch under the chaste tree, the more I pull it out the better it grows. Pots of mint that look a little tired can be cut back and slash the roots to encourage better growth.
Plant mint along walkways, so it can be brushed against and release its refreshing aroma.
Mints are supposed to make good companion plants repelling pest insects and attracting beneficial ones.
The leaves have a pleasant warm, fresh, aromatic, sweet flavor with a cool aftertaste. Mint leaves are used in teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, and ice creams.
Mint is commonly used with peas, carrots, potatoes, eggplant, beans, and corn to pep up the flavor.
To sweeten pineapple, add some fresh torn mint leaves. Try a Mint and watermelon salad with feta and black olives, mint leaves add a real freshness to salads.
Add chopped mint leaves to scrambled eggs, and omelets. Mint jelly is a traditional condiment served with lamb dishes. Mint can be frozen in ice cube trays.
Add a couple of dried mint leaves to the sugar bowl to add flavor to the sugar, for serving to guests with iced tea.” Or add a couple of fresh mint leaves in the filter with the freshly ground coffee as it brews in the morning for a very pleasant cup of coffee.
Offer bright green sprigs of fragrant, fresh mint to nibble on after a meal to freshen the breath and help digestion.
The Mojito, a traditional Cuban cocktail said to be a favorite of the writer Ernest Hemingway, is made with rum, powdered sugar, lime juice, club soda and a mint unique to Cuba.
Peppermint leaf tea is used to treat indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, colds, headache and cramps. Mint leaves are known for their ability to calm a nervous stomach. They soothe the digestive tract and can help relieve stomachaches as well.
Peppermint is part of a popular tea blend for colds and flu, Known as YEP tea it also contains yarrow and elder flower.
Studies have shown mint leaves may slow down some of the most harmful bacteria and fungi that are introduced into our bodies.
Mint was strewn across floors to cover the smell of the hard-packed soil. Stepping on the mint helped to spread its scent through the room. I love this idea and have strewn mint and scented geraniums on the ground when having a BBQ to keep the mosquitoes away and the smell of the crushed herbs when being walked on is delightful on a balmy summers night. I have also made mint vinegar for adding to my bucket of water when mopping the floors.
Place fresh mint in bowls when going away to help keep the air fresh.
There are so many different varieties of mint to choose from, some of the varieties we have had include – old fashioned mint/garden mint(this is my favourite), spearmint, peppermint, curly mint, ginger mint, apple mint, pineapple mint, eau de cologne mint, water mint, pennyroyal, Corsican mint, rust free mint, Japanese menthol mint, lemon mint, hung cay mint, native mint, chocolate mint, Egyptian mint, Moroccan mint, pennyroyal, basil mint, white peppermint, variegated ginger mint.
Then there are the impersonators, which are known as mint, but are not from the Genus ‘Mentha’ these include Vietnamese mint, stone mint, calamint and mountain mint.