Mint to most people is a flavour of gum or toothpaste. Don’t be one of these people, they are missing out. Mint is both a herb and an attractive low-maintenance plant, everyone should grow at least one. As a herb, its versatility is amazing. You can slice it up and toss it in fruit salad to immediately add zing. A green salad gets a fresh blast from a few leaves tossed in and many cuisines rely heavily on its flavour for savoury dishes (Middle eastern, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, just to name a few).
Mint is one of those plants I call a confidence builder, any green thumb can be boosted by planting mint. In fact, the biggest problem with mint is how easy it is to grow. Another term I use to describe it is aggressive but perhaps a better term would be enthusiastic. The roots can run rampant and if you’re not careful you will quickly have more mint that you know what to do with. This makes it a perfect container plant, that way it is self–contained and can be close by the door/window so you’re more likely to use it.
So other than don’t let it get out of control… you’ve been warned… or you’ll be weeding/cursing at it for years to come, care instructions for mint are easy. Pinch it back often to promote bushy growth and remove any flower buds as they form (the mint tastes better when it’s not flowering), but that’s not hard if you are harvesting often. Plant it in a semi-shaded or shade site (save your sunny spots for the tomatoes and basil). And lastly you need to divide it. By divide it I mean, every two or three years dig it up, cut the root mass into a few pieces, plant one back in your pot and give the other pieces to your friends. Otherwise it can get bare and woody in the centre.
Most people are familiar with Spearmint and Peppermint, but there are so many more interesting varieties of mint available. Consider planting some of these:
The fragrant orange undertones of this mint make it perfect for cooking (perfect for fruit and veggies salads) and using in drinks.
Unfortunately the taste of chocolate is not as pronounced as some would like in this mint, but the stems are the most attractive dark brown colour that it’s worth growing for looks alone. Whether the leaves have a slight chocolate odour or not is a bit of a horticultural debate… you will just have to try it yourself and make your own decision. It’s best used in deserts, drinks and cooking.
I think you can guess what this mint is good for. If your sole purpose for growing this herb is to make Mojitos, then you have arrived. This is the preferred mint (Mentha x villosa ‘Mojito’) that originated in Cuba and was used to make the iconic drink. It’s a bit spicier and warmer than spearmint and can be used in cooking as well as libations.
This is actually a variegated variety of apple mint and its creamy white edged leaves alone are enough to consider growing it. The fragrance is sweet with… you guessed it… tropical notes. It can be used for cooking and in drinks, just image a pineapple fruit salad with pineapple mint.
One question I do get asked is what the difference between peppermint and spearmint is.
The simple answer is that peppermint contains more menthol, so it has a more intense minty flavour. Spearmint is much more subtle and sweet in flavour.
Considered a stimulant in aromatherapy, mint has long been used as a herbal remedy. It has been used to treat nausea, stomach aches, nerves, as relief from cold symptoms and to mask bad breath. The therapeutic benefits are plentiful but mostly… it is delicious. Pop it in a drink, eat it salads, with fruit and in deserts, make tea, grab a handful as you walk by and breath deep (remember the therapeutic benefits). So go and pursue the mint table in the garden centre and you’ll be amazed at the selection. They all have their subtle difference in flavour and smell. Enjoy your therapy all summer long.
Amazing Mint salad dressing
½ cup of mint, chopped
3 T white vinegar
2 T olive oil
2 T Mayonnaise
2 T Dijon mustard
Whisk ingredient together and serve over your choice of greens (arugula, spinach and pea greens are a perfect complement)
The Best Garden Tabbouleh
3 medium tomatoes, cut into 2 cm cubes
½ cup bulgur
¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
6 T olive oil
½ t salt, divided
½ cup chopped mint
1 ½ cup chopped parsley
2 green onions, sliced
Put the tomatoes into a strainer over a bowl and sprinkle with ¼ t of salt. Let it stand for 20min to let the tomatoes release some of their liquid. This is an important step, so you don’t have soggy tabbouleh. Rinse the bulgur in a strainer with cold water. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 2 T of lemon juice and 2T of the liquid draining off the tomatoes (this is why you drain them over a bowl). Let them soak all of that up for 30-40 minutes.
Whisk the remaining lemon, oil, and remaining ¼ t salt together and add to bulgur along with tomatoes, parsley, mint and green onions.
Toss and stick it in the fridge for at least 1 hr (the flavours need to blend). Season with salt and pepper and enjoy.
Written By: Ingrid Hoff