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.
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!
Got mint to grow?
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.
- Mint 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.
- Mint 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 and 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?
Dry and Store Mint
Do you like herbal teas in the frigid middle of January when there’s no mint in sight? Me too. In order to have mint for the winter, you need to harvest it all spring, summer and fall. To do that:
- Cut whole stems of your mint, down 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 is sufficient for me here in Utah but if you live in a more humid climate, you can also dry the leaves in a dehydrator – just follow the directions for herbs for your unit. Make sure whatever leaves you dry are clean (grit is not fun to munch in your tea or tincture) and healthy; just pull off any that don’t pass muster and give them to your chickens or your compost.
Nothing soothes the tummy faster after Thanksgiving feast or calms the nerves better after Christmas than mint tea. If you’ve grown it, you don’t have to worry that the herb you’re drinking has been blasted with radiation or treated with toxic chemicals as many commercial brands are.
Once you’ve done that, one thing you can try your hand at making are some herbal dream pillows that include mint – just follow this link to Homespun Seasonal Living to learn how.
Stop the Burps with Mint
Speaking of indigestion (we were, weren’t we?), mint is an herb I add to several of my tinctures simply because it tastes so good but also because of it is carminative (combats gas and aids digestion), anti-spasmodic, , nervine, anti-emetic (vomiting) and anti-microbial. We use some essential oils at our house and if you don’t have any mint tincture on hand, rubbing a quality essential oil on a little kiddos tummy will work wonders (always use a carrier oil for kids because mint oil is strong).
Chewing fresh mint is also beneficial. I also give it to my animals when I feel they need it – such as when my dopey goat is caught eating paint off the side of the barn. Sigh.
Use Mint to Control Ants
Peppermint is the only non-toxic ant deterrent (ha, no pun intended!) 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 in your bathroom – or wherever the little menaces are infiltrating.
If you don’t have oil, you can make a strong mint tea but cutting several sprigs of mint (enough to fill a small pan) and putting 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 mint, 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.
Cook with Mint
Preparing food with mint is a real delight. Mint is tasty in salads, chutneys, salsas, smoothies and dressings. Oh, home made yogurt with fresh mint sprigs served over hot tabbouleh! Yum, yum! We made some raw truffles recently that I added fresh mint to, along with some essential oil, and they were simply divine. Mint ice cream is a must during the summer.
Mint is a good source for Manganese, Vitamin A and Vitamin C as well as a good deal of Iron so eat it often. Raw is almost always better, especially with an herb since you don’t want all that tasty oil volatizing out of your food when you heat it up, but mint can be cooked with easily.
How about preserving your mint? I’ve got rhubarb right now so this one from Homespun Seasonal Living caught my eye: Rhubarb Mint Jam.
Cool Down with Mint
And I ask that in a literal way. Mint is cooling! If you’re overheated eat some mint, rub fresh leaves on your wrists and temples and, if you’re with a friend, down your spine. Put some mint in your water and drink it down – if you don’t have fresh, use essential oil. Or, or, or make a solar infused mint ice tea. When I was pregnant I put some fresh mint spring 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.
Last Minty Suggestions
If you maintain a water kefir, add some mint sprigs with lemon and lime wedges squeezed out to your strained kefir – all you need is a natural sweetener and you have a lovely ‘soda pop’. Here’s a recipe from Untrained Housewife for Mint Limeade – a perfect summer drink.
And here’s one that cool in the sense of being fun – have you ever made your own foot scrub? They are incredibly easy and make great gifts! Usually botanicals will turn darker once you blend all your ingredients and may look a little funky but just be sure to put “Fresh Mint” on the label and the recipient will be so happy.
Here’s an article by Learning and Yearning containing more ideas of ways to use mint!
In short, mint 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 mint? 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: