MINT (PEPPERMINT) (mentha piperita)
(SPEARMINT) (mentha spicata)
Mint is probably one of the best known herbs in the UK, if only for its accompaniment to roast lamb! The essential oil in mint is used in many medicinal and cosmetic preparations as well as in the kitchen.
It is a hardy perennial and a prolific grower. It is suitable to grow in pots and containers as well as directly in the herb or vegetable garden, in shady spots where nothing else seems to grow. It is prolific though and will take over a large area rapidly if not contained. Mint will often come back a couple of years after it’s been ‘removed’ from the area. Plant where it won’t disturb the rest of the garden.
There are about 1000 different types of mint but only about 5 or 6 of these are worth cultivating. Peppermint is the most popular and probably the most useful variety. Peppermint can be used in sweet and savoury dishes and is a recognised healing herb. Spearmint and pennyroyal mint are also popular varieties to grow at home. There will usually be a choice of varieties available in your garden centre.
Mint has been used as far back as Roman times and has been cultivated in Europe for many years, although there wasn’t a lot recorded about the plant until the 17th century
Mint will grow in virtually any spot and will take over the whole area if not checked. It is very suitable for container growing but also will do well in a shady part of the garden, where perhaps not much else will grow.
Ideally mint should be contained. Plant in a container that has been sunk into the ground, or alternatively in pots on the windowsill or outside on the patio.
Like most herbs, mint prefers a rich well-drained soil but likes moisture so a shady spot is ideal where the soil doesn’t dry out too quickly. The area mustn’t be waterlogged though. Dig over the ground and mix in some well-rotted manure or compost during the season before planting.
It’s very important to contain mint unless you want a field of it. Sink a bottomless container such as an old bucket into the ground, or dig a deep hole and line with black plastic. This won’t contain the plant 100% but it will help. Alternatively, stick to container growing.
Mint will propagate easily from seed as well as by separating the roots and re-planting. Sow seed in early spring and keep moist and weed-free until the plants are large enough to handle. Then pot them up or plant in the garden.
To propagate by root division, simply break off the root and re-plant in potting compost until it has established a good root system and then plant out.
Garden centres and plant suppliers often have pots of mint ready to plant out. Look at the labels before buying – there are many different varieties available including eau-de-cologne mint, which isn’t very suitable for mint sauce, but will produce a lovely scent in the home if grown indoors.
Mint is a hardy plant and doesn’t need an awful lot of looking after but a mulch occasionally will help keep the moisture in the roots. The roots are shallow and can dry out quite quickly. This should only need doing if the plant is growing in full sun or there hasn’t been much rainfall.
Mint can occasionally suffer with a rust disease and should be pulled up and burnt if symptoms occur. Grow new plants away from the affected area. This disease can be caused by bad drainage, too much water generally or simply a virus in the soil.
Pick leaves as you need them, and remove the flowers to produce more foliage.
Hang sprigs upside down in a dust free area in paper bags. The leaves can then be crumbled and stored in an airtight jar to be used for flavourings and mint tea. Mixing fresh leaves with vinegar is another way to store mint. Again, keep in sealed jars.
Medicinal uses for Mint
Mint is well-known for its medicinal qualities, and is regularly drunk as a tea or eaten in the form of a candy after meals to aid digestion. Many people swear by a cup of mint tea every day to keep colds and flu away. It is also a good remedy for nervous headaches and stress.
P.S. This text was borrowed from 20 Everyday Herbs
20 everyday herbs
A potted history of twenty everyday herbs, step by step growing instructions, storing ideas and even medicinal uses.
Basil … Bay … Celery … Chives … Coriander … Dill … Fennel … Garlic … Horseradish … Lavender … Lemon Balm … Lovage … Marigold … Mint … Nasturtium … Oregano … Parsley … Rosemary … Sage … Thyme.
’20 Everyday Herbs’ is packed full of everything you need to know about growing herbs at home for everyday use. A must-have!
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