Many of us have memories of mint that originated in childhood; peppermint candy canes at Christmas, mint flavored toothpaste and spearmint flavored gum. Mint is used in countless products from mouthwash to laundry detergent.
Native to Asia, mint has long been used as a tea to soothe the digestive system. The brew soon grew in popularity around the world. Mint tea is prepared much like any other herbal tea in that boiling water is poured over fresh or dried mint leaves and allowed to steep to develop the flavor. Tea may be sweetened with honey and lemon or sugar to taste. Gather tender young leaves to use fresh or to dry for tea before the plant flowers or goes to seed.
As a culinary flavoring mint is used in curries, sauces, and soups and is a primary ingredient in many candies, cookies, gums, and over-the-counter medications, body lotions, shampoos, soaps, and salves.
A member of Labiatae, the mint family, is composed of approximately 160 genera including horehound, sage, thyme, marjoram, hyssop, basil, lemon balm, lavender, rosemary, and a host of other familiar garden herbs. However, true mint such as spearmint, peppermint, apple mint, chocolate mint, curly mint, water mint and a diverse array of varieties and hybrids are one of the most popular types of herbs grown in the home garden today.
A Fast-Growing Groundcover
A vigorous grower, any variety of mint is an excellent choice for filling in a barren spot in the landscape. If not contained, mint will spread in clumps, effectively choking out pesky weeds while attracting bees and butterflies to the garden with its pungent scent. There are so many different types and varieties of mint to choose from including dwarf varieties that only grow a few inches tall, to hybrids that reach over 3-feet at maturity. Mint in available in variegated varieties and a wide range of scents. Plants are available for purchase online or from your local home and garden supply store.
Before planting, enrich the soil with garden compost and aged manure. Mint loves a rich soil and lots of water. Once established, mint is a hardy perennial that will scent the garden for decades to come.
Mint is a useful ground cover in the home fruit orchard where the scent is carried on the breeze as it is walked on. If you wish to control mint’s spreading habit, grow different varieties in clay pots or ceramic containers on the patio. If container grown, be sure to provide a nutrient-enriched soil supplement and use a pot or vessel with excellent drainage. Water frequently.
Mint is an essential aromatic, used in the preparation of fragrant bathes and as an ingredient in fragrance sachets and potpourris. Refresh the air in a stale smelling closet or room by hanging a bouquet of fresh mint in a window or doorway. Mint is used as room refreshing scent in tropic climates, lending refreshing a sense of coolness to the air. j