A very good question was posed to me lately – “What do I do with all this mint?!” Come learn how to grow it, how to contain it and how to use. Mint: the herb every gardener loves to hate.
Do you Want to Grow Mint?
Some people have a love/hate relationship with their mint patch:
- It greens up pretty early in the season
- Needs almost no care
- And smells divine but…
It also spreads like a virus in a kindergarten, even going under (no joke) pavement. Personally, I love my mint but I do have it contained by cement (although I know some day it will heave itself beyond those bounds).
I also believe that if something grows that well, that easily, that must be God telling me he wants me to eat a lot of it. Turns out there are lots of things to do with mint and we’ll just barely scratch the surface here!
Well, first I feel obliged to touch briefly on how to grow it. Although, I think I might be better received if I explain how NOT to grow it.
- This herb likes slightly alkaline, moist, well drained soil. Really the moist part is the only thing mint is picky about – it thrives in moisture, although it doesn’t appreciate soggy feet.
- It will propagate itself by sending out rooting stems or you can root your own stem cuttings in the spring and fall, and/or take stem cuttings to root in water in the heat of the summer.
- If you take a cutting, just make sure you remove the leaves at the base of the stem so that no leaf goes directly into the soil or water.
- There are a lot of different culinary/medicinal varieties to grow – pepper, spear, orange, chocolate.
- It makes a lovely ground cover with some varieties hugging the soil (like Corsican mint) or others (like spearmint) growing 6-8 inches tall. Although, mine will get two feet tall searching for sun behind my climbing roses.
- It grows well in containers, on sloping ground or, I daresay, the dark side of the moon.
- This herb will over winter (usually) to zone 5, especially if you throw some straw over it .
To learn more about growing mint and several other herbs, especially if you’d like to grow them in pots, check out our book below:
Now, what to do with the abundant crop?
Drying and Storing Mint
Do you like herbal teas in the frigid middle of January when there are no herbs in sight? Me too. Here’s a fantastic combination of flavors in this Summer Mess Peppermint Tea recipe.
In order to have mint for the winter, you need to harvest it all spring, summer and fall. To do that:
- Cut whole stems off at the base (don’t worry, it WILL grow back) and bunch them with a rubber band.
- You don’t want too many in one bundle because they might mold as they dry – that’s really only a problem if you live where its humid.
- Strip the leaves at the base of the stems where you’re putting your rubber band.
- Then, hang them upside down in a dust free-ish zone (no totally dust free zone exists in my house) and wait for them to dry.
To learn more about drying herbs, please visit this link.
Air drying will sufficient for those in dry climates – start checking for dryness after a week. If you live in a more humid climate, you can also dry the leaves in a dehydrator. Simply follow the directions for herbs for your unit or read this article by The Herbal Academy .
Make sure whatever leaves you dry are clean and healthy. Remove any leaves that don’t pass muster and give them to your chickens or your compost.
Stop the Burps
Mint is an herb I add to several of my tinctures simply because it tastes so refreshing. However, I also add it in because of it is wellness actions. This one herb is reported to:
- be carminative (meaning it combats gas and aids digestion)
- an anti-spasmodic
- a nervine (helpful to the nervous system)
- anti-emetic (vomiting)
It is very helpful is settling upset stomachs, especially with children because the flavor is pleasing. If you don’t have a mint tincture on hand, chewing the herb fresh is also beneficial.
I even give it to my animals when they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t. Such as when my dopey goat is caught eating paint off the side of the barn. Sigh.
Making a basic mint tea is a quick way to calm the stomach. If you’d like something a little more indulgent than basic, try this lemony lavender mint tea recipe from Homespun Seasonal Living.
Use Mint to Control Ants
Peppermint is the only non-toxic ant deterrent I’ve found to use in my home of four small, precocious children who still put things in their mouths. If you have access to essential oils, the lazy way to use mint to fight ants is to add 10-20 drops to a spray bottle of un-chlorinated water and go to town on the ants wherever the little menaces are infiltrating.
If you don’t have oil, you can make a strong mint ant spray tea:
- Cut several sprigs of mint (enough to fill a small pan)
- Put them into the sauce pan with just enough water to cover them.
- Bring the water to a boil and then remove it from the heat so the mint can steep overnight.
- Strain out the herb, put the tea in a spray bottle and ants will fear you.
- The only drawback to using the tea is that it will leave a tea-color wherever you spray it. No big deal if it’s your garage floor, bigger deal if it’s your antique, Persian rug.
You can also cut sprigs of mint to simply lay out in window sills or at the base of cabinets or wherever you find ant trails originating. You can use the dried mint to craft sachets to leave around as well. To learn to make a re-usable herb sachet, please click here.
Cook with Mint
Preparing food with mint is a real delight. This herb is tasty in salads, chutneys, salsas, smoothies and dressings. Oh, home made yogurt with fresh mint sprigs served over hot tabbouleh is also a treat! Yum, yum!
Mint is a good source for Manganese, Vitamin A and Vitamin C as well as a good deal of Iron so eat it often. Consuming raw mint will help you retain more nutrients and essential oils, however it’s very easy to cook with mint. Here are a few recipes:
- A Traditional Mint Sauce from Joybilee Farm for any meat dish but especially lamb.
- The Stingy Vegan has a delightful mint truffle recipe that is super simple with 4 ingredients.
- Mint ice cream is a must during the summer and you can add as much fresh as you’d like – don’t forget the dark chocolate shavings! To learn to make great homemade ice cream, you may need these tips.
- One of my favorite fresh mint recipes if from my friend Kathie at Homespun Seasonal Living – Fresh Mint Cake with Dark Chocolate Frosting. You will NOT be sorry you made this!
Cool Down with Mint
One of the best parts about mint being abundant in the summer is that it’s cooling! If you’re slightly overheated:
- Eat some mint.
- Rub fresh leaves on your wrists and temples and, if you’re with a friend, down your spine.
- Make mint ice cubes before you go out into the garden.
- Put tear some mint into tiny pieces and put it in your water and drink it down.
- Make a solar infused mint ice tea – this one from the Wimpy Vegetarian has peach and mint!
When I was pregnant, I put some fresh sprigs in the sink and covered them with water. I’d periodically walk by and splash some on my arms and neck to stay cool. Me no like summer when pregnant. For other mint drink ideas:
- If you maintain a water kefir, Weston Price can teach you how to make a soft drink replacement. All you need is the herb, a natural sweetener and you have a lovely ‘soda pop’.
- Here’s a recipe from Untrained Housewife for Mint Limeade – a perfect summer drink.
Remember, if you’re truly overheated, you may need to seek medical help.
Gifts from the Garden
A simple gift to give if you grow your own mint is that of mint seed! Your gardener friends will love growing their own, especially if you gift a fancy variety like chocolate or orange. Be sure to warn your friend to grow their mint in pots!
For 3 Seed Gift Ideas – click here.
Who wouldn’t like to get Homemade Chocolate Mint Extract as their neighbor gift this Christmas?! Timber Creek Farm can teach you how to make this here. It’s never too early to start preparing for the holidays! In fact, in the case of extracts, you really need to start them in the summer time.
To get ahead on your homemade holiday gifts, please visit this article complete with a free download, checklists and suggestions!
From Nerdy Farm Wife, here’s how to make soap with your garden mint. Or Cucumber Mint Bath Soak – click here. You may notice that Jan’s writing features a lot in this article. That’s because, if you want to learn how to use fresh mint or any herb in health care products like soaps, balms and scrubs, Nerdy Farm Wife is where you go! She has some great courses that you can check out below – including free materials!
In short, this herb is easy to grow and easy to use in many delightful ways. In fact, it’s hard to do much wrong with it since just the smell will set you dreaming of long, cool naps in the shade.
Do you have a favorite way to use this herb? Feel free to let us know!
If you’d like to learn more about herb plants as medicine, be sure to visit The Herbal Academy. They have beginning classes and even courses for herbal practitioners! You’re bound to find something you can use. To get a sample lesson: Preview Lesson from the Introductory Herbal Course. To learn more, just click the ad below:
Alternate pin image gratefully attributed to this Pexels user.