Mint is one of the most widely used and most famous of all herbs. It is easy to cultivate and has a wide variety of culinary and medicinal uses. Mentha spicata, formerly known as mentha viridis is the best strain grown from seed.
The flavour of mint goes well with many savoury ingredients, especially vegetables. We eat spearmint with lamb, usually made into mint sauce, as it helps digest the fatty nature of the meat. Its digestive qualities are similar to peppermint but not as strong. On the sweet side, the taste goes particularly well with chocolate.
An infusion of mint is the `national beverage' in Morocco and Tunisia. Use mint combined with rum, carbonated water, lime and sugar to make the popular alcoholic beverage Mojito.
Spearmint is an exceptionally fragrant and ornamental plant, in addition to its many other uses is also extremely attractive to butterflies and bees and makes a wonderful addition to any wildlife garden.
Sowing: Sow February to July.
Sow seed on the surface of lightly firmed, moist seed compost in pots or trays.
Do not cover the seed as it needs light to germinate, simply press the seeds lightly into the compost and water from below. Keep moist and propagate at 18 to 20°C (65 to 68°F). Be patient, the seed can be rather slow to germinate and can be erratic, continuing over a number of weeks.
When large enough to handle, transplant seedlings into single 15cm (6in) pots. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out after all risk of frost. For best results, provide any ordinary, well-drained soil. To create vigorous and bushy mint plant growth it is best to pinch back the tips of young plants.
Spearmint, as with all mint plants may get out of control when planted to grow freely in the garden. Take care to contain it. Grow plants in bottomless containers either sunk in the ground, or above ground. One plant per 15cm (6in) container should suffice.
All mints thrive, in cool, moist spots in partial shade, though they will tolerate full sun. Make sure to water well during the peak of summer heat and cut back often to prevent flowering and encourage new growth.
Mint requires large amounts of water compared with other crops. Keep the soil moist during summer and water the plants at least twice a week. If you're growing in pots remember you will need to water more often. Use a diluted water soluble, organic fertiliser as you'll be flushing the nutrients from the soil on a continuous basis.
Every three years mint plants should be divided and re-potted in fresh soil and compost to maintain healthy growth. The plants are hardy and will die back to ground in winter. Top dress with compost in autumn if the plants are not lifted annually.
Mint is a great companion plant to tomatoes and cabbages, repelling the Cabbage White Butterflies, Aphids and Flea Beetles. Mint repels insects including ants; it will also repel mice and rats.
Mint leaves can be dried or frozen for winter use. Leaves can be used to make mint vinegars, storing the fresh leaves in oil.
Harvest leaves for drying in June to July, dry and store in airtight containers in a cool dark place. Dry your home-grown mint either by air-drying or oven drying. When air drying, hang small bunches, upside-down in a dark airy place for about two weeks. To oven dry – place individual leaves in a single layer on a baking tray sandwiched between kitchen paper then and place in a very cool oven overnight. When fully dried they should be very crisp and crumbly.
To freeze mint leaves for winter use, wash and dry individual leaves, place in a single layer on a tray, cover with cling film and freeze until solid. Transfer to small plastic bags or containers and return to the freezer where they’ll keep for several months. Because of the difference in processing, air-dried mint is best used in recipes which call for a longer cooking time such as stews, soups and meat and poultry dishes whereas freeze-dried mint is most suitable for dishes which require little or no cooking such as omelettes, sauces and dressings. As with most dried herbs, you should use less than the fresh counterpart. 1 tablespoon fresh mint = 1 teaspoon dried mint .
The flavour of mint goes well with many savoury ingredients, especially vegetables. Chopped leaves are added to new potatoes or to green peas as well as lamb, poultry and fish dishes. Added to mayonnaise for sea foods adds a fresh summer taste. On the sweet side, the taste goes particularly well with chocolate.
Mint and its relatives are popular herbs for infusions; an infusion of green mint is the `national beverage' in Morocco and Tunisia. Toss mint leaves in a variety of beverages. Whole peppermint or spearmint leaves go well in lemonade and tea. Apple mint, pineapple mint and spearmint compliment fruit beverages. Use spearmint combined with rum, carbonated water, lime and sugar to make the popular alcoholic beverage Mojito.
Whichever way one eats it, drinks it, or prepares it, mint is an herb with many beneficial uses for good health. In fact, the reason most of our ancestors grew this pungent herb was for its many health benefits.
The benefits of mint aromatically and medicinally are almost identical to basil; however the classic mint aroma from the stronger menthol oils, provide the more powerful effects on calming a gut that is inflamed or in spasm, and the cool, stimulating effect on the skin and to the taste.
Spearmint tea is a pleasant home remedy for indigestion, sickness and colic. Its warmer taste is usually preferred by children. Taken for its relaxing effects, it can ease headaches and digestive problems.
The effect of menthol on the skin can be used as a mild analgesic and frequently added to muscle creams. Mint makes a wonderfully cooling face pack. Make a paste with a handful of mint leaves, half a tub of natural yoghurt and a quarter of a cucumber, and apply to the skin for 15 minutes.
The antibacterial and cleansing effects are commonly used as full flavoured oral hygiene products.
There are more than 50 different mint species and all of them work as an insect repellent. Mint also repels ants, mice and rats. Place crushed mint leaves in small sachet bags and place the sachets in various locations around the house. Crush a few dry mint leaves where ants are active to keep them away;
Make insect repellent from fresh mint leaves, orange and/or lemon peels and rubbing alcohol. Boil the citrus peels and mint leaves and allow it to sit overnight. Strain the liquid and mix it with an equal amount of rubbing alcohol. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Spray the mixture on yourself before going outside to keep biting insects away.
Native to the Mediterranean and Western Asia, Mint has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years and is even mentioned in the Bible.
Mint species interbreed often, making it difficult for even an expert to distinguish all the varieties. All mints contain the volatile oil menthol, which gives mint that characteristic cooling, cleansing feeling.
The Greeks believed mints could clear the voice and cure hiccups. In fact, mint is part of Greek mythology and according to legend - 'Minthe' was originally a nymph.
The species name spicata comes from the Latin spica for spike and comes from the structure of the plant.
The common name of spearmint is derived from the plant's spear-like pointed leaf tips.
In France mint is dedicated to the Virgin and is called 'Menthe de Notre Dame'.
Folklore and Legend:
According to Greek mythology, the mint plant originally was a beautiful nymph named Minthe who lived in the River Cocytus in the underworld; She was the secret lover of Hades. In fact, he adored her. When Persephone found out about the relationship between her husband and the water nymph, She was furious, and, in a fit of jealousy, took revenge on her husband's mistress by stomping her, eventually cursing and transforming Minthe into a lowly plant.
Although Hades could not undo his wife's spell, he did have the power to add one of his own. He bestowed upon Minthe a fragrance that would grow sweeter and stronger whenever she was trod upon. Over time, the name Minthe was changed to Menthe, is the origin of our word menthol.
Mentha became the genus of the mint plant. The mint family includes basil, lemon balm, marjoram, oregano, sage, rosemary and thyme. Most commonly known and used is spearmint and peppermint.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 100mg Average Seed Count 500 Seeds Common Name English, Common, Garden or Green Mint Family Lamiaceae Genus Mentha Species viridis Synonym formerly Mentha viridis Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Violet / Lavender flowers Natural Flower Time June and July Height 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) Position Full Sun / Partial Shade Soil All types Time to Sow Sow in autumn or spring. Time to Harvest The aromatic leaves are at their best just before flowering in June and July.