Ten Easy Tips
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Mint comes in a variety of flavors: Spearmint, pineapple, orange, apple, peppermint, chocolate, persian, corsican, lavender, chewing gum, grapefruit, basil, ginger, pennyroyal, licorice, and more.
Tip: Although mint is a perennial, it dies back in the winter, so be sure to label your plantings.
- Basic Information
Mint has no specific sun requirement, so it is easier to grow than many other herbs. Partial shade is OK as long as the soil is rich, moist, and well drained. Wet roots mean dead plants, so raised beds or containers are good for wet areas.
- Purchasing Mint
Look for Latin names on the markers if you are buying flavored mint. Pennyroyal and Corsican mint are non-edible. Different varieties of mint will mix if grown together and eventually the different flavors will blend with one another. To ensure a true flavor and to protect yourself, seek out the Latin name.
- Basil Mint
Basil is not an easy herb to grow, but Basil Mint is. You can dry the beautiful, scented flowers or use the leaves in your favorite pesto recipe, as you would basil. Harvest throughout the summer while maintaining a flowerless plant if you are growing for the leaves. After your last cutting, let the flowers bloom and dry them for ornamental use. For other "cheap" pestos, try parsley or fresh spinach.
- Miscellaneous Mints
Ginger and Pineapple mint are beautiful as variegated plants especially for added color in hanging baskets or in an arrangement of annuals. Ginger mint has an exceptional flavor. The scented tall lavender flower spikes of Licorice mint are ideal for drying and are very similar to Anise Hyssop, another very dryable, licorice flavored herb.
- Purchase Tips
Purchase plants whenever possible. Seeds may not be reliable because of crossbreeding. In fact, seeds for Peppermint are not available at all, so be very suspicious if you ever come across any.
- Miscellaneous Mints
Chocolate mint, with its beautiful dark green leaves, is a real find. It has an exceptional chocolate liqueur scent and is absolutely irresistible, if you like chocolate. Orange mint is another heady scent, on par with Chocolate and Ginger as winners in the mint scent race. Grapefruit and Chewing Gum mints have their own distinguishing scents.
- Mint Problem- Rust
Rust can be fatal to mint plants. If a mint breaks out with orange spots on the leaves, you have rust. Destroy the plant and quarantine that area for a few years. If you find one of the rarer scented mints buy two plants and plant them in different areas. As a safeguard against rust, you can plant one of them in a container. Remember: Watering during cool evenings encourages disease, and overhead watering should be limited to early morning hours.
If you have a small area and prefer not to spend your time removing rampant growth, grow your mint in containers or in a sunken, open ended, #10 can. This greatly reduces the chance of the area becoming a mint patch. Also, maintain enough space between different flavors so they can not cross breed. Concrete blocks work well to separate different mint species.
- Mint in the Winter
Mint is a perennial plant and will disappear in the winter. Your last harvest will be in the fall before the first frost of the season. In the fall, mulch for the winter, or extend the growing time by taking your mint indoors. On the last harvest, dry the flowers for a lasting scent.
- Harvesting Mint
Mint is best fresh, but since it dies back in the winter, drying or freezing it is an option. Clip regularly during the summer, but take no more than 1/3 of the plant at any one time to encourage continued growth. To freeze mint, wash the leaves and freeze them in ice cube trays with a little water. You can also dry mint by hanging the leafy stems in a warm, dry place until you can "crinkle" the dried leaves in your hand. When storing leaves, store them whole in a glass container. Mint scent is lost over time, so use your harvest within six months. If you are drying flowers for ornamental use, strip off all the leaves and hang them as you would for normal drying. It is also possible to dry mint in the microwave. One to two minutes on high seems to work, but you might have to experiment.
Some of the more traditional uses include making mint jelly out of spearmint, using leaves of the other edible mints as garnishes, and making candied mint leaves. Some mints, such as Orange Mint, have very strong scents and are overpowering in food dishes. For these mints, use as a garnish or in fresh bouquets. Mint flavored water is a cool refreshing drink in the summer. Crush the herb leaves to release the flavor. In pesto, try other edible mints in addition to Basil Mint in the recipe. Chocolate covered mint leaves are a treat when served with a simple desert. You can also flavor sugar with mint leaves. Try using Chocolate Mint for your coffee sugar, or ginger mint sugar on grapefruit.