When you think of mint, your mind may wander to toothpaste, chewing gum, or breath mints. This is true – mint is a great herb to make your breath feel fresh and clean your mouth. However, it can also aid in all kinds of concentration or respiratory problems, as well as play a welcome addition to bring out the flavors in all kinds of food and beverages.
There are over 30 varieties of mint plants with some of our favorites including pineapple mint, apple mint, orange mint and peppermint. For millennia, mint has been used as a symbolism of hospitality. In ancient Greece, it was rubbed on tables to welcome visitors and used to clear the air in temples and homes.
Throughout history, people have used different species of mint plants for medicinal purposes. Different mint types offer a range of antioxidant qualities and potential health benefits.
Mint has a history, the name “mint” comes from a nymph in Greek mythology named Minthe or Menthe who, according to legend, was Pluto’s girlfriend. Pluto’s white, Persephone, was jealous and transformed her hated rival Minthe into a plain looking, ground-clinging plant that people could step on.
A little Mint history.
Peppermint was first listed in the London Pharmacopoela in 1721. Biblical references to mint suggest it was of such high value as to be used as tithes by the Pharisees along with anise and cumin. In the 14the Century we found early versions of mint toothpaste as was often used during that time for whitening teeth.
Best outdoor temperature for growing mint?
Mint is an herb, like most other, that appreciate a slightly warmer soil temperature. The ideal temperature for growing mint is around 55 degrees to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Mint can be tough and survive in colder temperatures, but if mint is exposed to temperatures well below this range, they will likely die, but the roots will survive for a rebirth in the spring.
What is the best way to plant mint?
The easiest way to grow herbs, like mint, is by taking transplants from a trusted source, like Gardenuity, and planting them in a container garden or home garden. Mint does not do well with many other herbs, so make sure to plant them where they can flourish and go crazy, without overtaking and stunting the growth of other herbs.
Mint is an aggressive grower and will spread quickly and consume nutrients from other plants in your garden. Growing mint in containers is often recommended and grow bags are great containers for growing a healthy crop of fresh mint.
What is the best way to harvest mint?
You can begin harvesting mint leaves once the plant has multiple stems that are at least 5-8 inches long. Mint may be one of the easiest herbs to harvest. You can harvest them whenever you want – they grow fast, spread fast, and bloom fast. Snip sprigs and leaves as needed. The more you harvest your mint the fuller the plant will grow. If you notice the stems getting longer and the leaves getting shorter that means it is time to cut the plant back by one-thrid to one-half. This trim will encourage it to send out fresh new foliage with bigger leaves.
All you need to do to harvest mint is pinch off the bit you want from the stems. Remember to not harvest more than a third of a plant at one time because removing more that that amount can weaken the plant.
It is best to harvest mint in the morning, as the dew is starting to evaporate from the leaves. This is the time when the essential oils in the foliage are at their most potent. If you need just a few leaves, simply pick individual leaves directly off the stems. It is a good idea when you are harvesting mint sprigs to harvest just about where a pair of leaves are growing, not in the middle of a stem between two sets of leaves.
How much light does mint need to grow?
Mint prefers partial shade or full sunlight to grow. Mint plants need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily but still prefer moist soil at all times, so partial shade can also be sufficient for successful growth. If you live in a climate where temperatures exceed 85-90 degree days consistently, it’s best to protect your mint plants from the afternoon sun. If you mint gets leggy, it may not be getting enough sun so you can try moving it to a different location.
Should I water mint every day?
Mint does not need to be watered every day, but it is crucial to water mint at least twice a week, deeply and thoroughly. Mint needs about 1-2 inches of water per week to survive. You want to always keep the soil around the mint plants slightly moist, maintaining lightly moist but not wet soil is the ideal environment for mint. If the soil feels dry about an inch down, give your plants a deep watering.
The mint will tell you when it needs to be hydrated, if you notice the foliage of your mint wilting, that’s typically a sign the plant needs more moisture. Remember to water your mint in the morning so it has moisture during the day.
Let’s talk taste.
Mint has a powerful, sweet, and cooling taste on the tongue. The reason it provides this cooling effect is due to the menthol in the plant, which sends signals to the brain that it is consuming something cold. This is why you can often find mint as a garnish in spicy cuisines, as it provides a welcome cooling sensation.
What are good growing companions for mint?
Mint proliferates and can tend to be invasive to other herbs or plants. Mint is an essential part of any herb garden and has many “companion” plants that it grows well with. Oregano, marigolds, carrots, kale, tomatoes, eggplants and cabbage are a few of our favorites. On the other hand, mint is not a great companion plant to rosemary, chamomile, or parsley.
Three recipes with mint?
- Red Curry Noodle Bowl with Steak and Mint
- Tabbouleh with Fresh Mint and Parsley
- After Dinner Mint Cocktail – CRÈME DE MENTHE
- Corn and Scallion Salad with Cilantro-Mint Dressing by Bobby Flay
- Orange Mint Margarita by Martha Stewart
Is mint good for you?
Mint has strong aromatic capabilities to aid in relaxation and calmness, as well as soothe respiratory issues. It is rich in Vitamins A, C, and B2, as well as minerals such as calcium, zinc, and magnesium.
While eating mint leaves offers some health benefits, research shows that several of mint’s health benefits come from applying it to your skin, in haling its aroma or taking it as a capsule. Fresh mint contains a fair amount of nutrients:
1/3 cup of fresh mint contains 6 calories, 1 gram of fiber, 12% of the RDI Vitamin A, 9% of the RDI of Iron, 8% of the RDI for Manganese and 4% of the RDI of folate.
Mint is a good source of vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that is critical for eye health.
What’s in a name?
Mint’s name comes from Greek mythology – Hades had eyes for a river nymph named Minthe. Minthe was arrogant about Hades’ attention and boasted about it widely. Persephone, the wife of Hades, became angry and transformed Minthe into a plant so that she would be crushed and trampled upon daily. Hades was unable to reverse the curse, so he gave Minthe a robust and sweet aroma so that she would never go unnoticed.
What is one thing you might not know about mint?
Mint is aromatherapy for the brain. We’ve all smelled mint and noticed the invigorating and refreshing feeling we get after a whiff of this herb. But science tells us more. The simple act of just smelling mint has been proven to improve memory. This scent can increase alertness and acuity while decreasing frustration, anxiety, and fatigue.
What are a few more interesting facts about mint:
Mint leaves grow in pairs that are oppositely arranged on stems.
Apple mint, spearmint, and peppermint are the most popular varieties of mint cultivated worldwide.
Essential oils and menthol extracted from the mint leaves are used int he manufacturing of toothpaste and mouthwashes.
Ancient Hebrews used to scatter mint over the synagogue floor for its scent.
The most common garden mint is spearmint.
Mint has been found in Egyptian tombs from as far back as 1500-1000 BC.
The U.S. produces 70-75% of the Worlds peppermint and spearmint.