Got Mint?

Got mint Learn to grow, harvest, use and store mint l Homestead Lady (.com)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.

Mint Unplugged

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:

  1. Cut whole stems of your mint, down at the base (don’t worry, it WILL grow back) and bunch them with a rubber band.
  2. 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.
  3. Strip the leaves at the base of the stems where you’re putting your rubber band.
  4. 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.

Here are two lovely iced teas to try using mint, both articles are form Montana Solar Creations: Homegrown Herbal Tea and Homemade Meadow Tea

Got Mint? Meadow Mint Tea photo courtesy of Montana Solar Creations.
Photo Courtesy of Montana Solar Creations

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!

Herbal Education

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:

Herbal Academy Online Courses

DisclaimerInformation offered on the Homestead Lady website is for educational purposes only. Read my full disclaimer HERE.

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33 thoughts on “Got Mint?

  1. This is a great post! My daughter planted a tiny mint plant in a rock garden in our last home — and it literally took over the entire area! I wish I had seen this info back then!

  2. We can grow mint here and it is perennial, way up here in Canada it is a zone 4 where I am. 🙂 (Just over the border in Alberta)

    I love mint and grow copious amounts of it when I have a garden.

    I am so thankful you let us visit you when we were there so I could be inspired on what I could do with less than the land that we want. Right now we are activly searching for something so we can be as awesome as you. 🙂

    1. You are so funny!! I was glad you could come and visit and tell us about you’re plans; I love talking to other people about what they’re doing. I was fighting a cold that day so I hope I wasn’t too spacey – you know how it is when you’re Mom and the work doesn’t stop but your brain won’t work! Keep us posted on what you find and good, good luck…although it’s really Providence, of course. By they way, thank you for turning me onto the Macheesmo guy – he’s absolutely cool!

  3. I pretty much love almost everything he posts. 🙂 I am so glad you enjoy it as well! Macheesmo is awesome.

    You were perfect. We enjoyed our chat. It gave my hubby and I so many things to think about and to talk about.

    When we came home we found out that our plans had to change due to funding and issues so the visit to you came at a perfect time. I was so thankful that we had seen a place that made it work. It was perfect timing. The Lord really does know and love us!

  4. So glad! Funding and “issues” are a huge thing in our lives, too, so we sympathize. Remember how President Hinckley always said, “Things have a way of working out”? We never would have chosen an acre in the city of a hugely busy and expensive county but for us, for now, it’s just what we need. You’ll be in our prayers!

  5. You didn’t mention (perhaps you didn’t know about it?) adding mint to Tabouli. Heavenly!

    I grow my mint in large containers, about half muck-bucket size. Incidentally, containers are also a good option for horseradish and comfrey, two other highly invasive plants. I’m in Zone 4, and they over-winter just fine.

  6. Mint lover here – wanting to share another great way to use mint. Years back, we had a dog run with concrete barrier under ground to deter digging along the fence line. It was here I brilliantly chose to plant a bagful of mint roots given to me by a co-worker. The mint had full sun, easily grew to 2′ or more and was kept in check by large dogs trotting the fence line. I had a huge mint crop annually, effortlessly. (Alas, no longer!) Here’s my tip for those with large amounts of mint: In the hottest months of summer, those days when you just can’t cool down, take an armload of mint indoors, put it in the bathtub (or large basin), fill halfway with water and crush the mint with your hands to release the oils. Let this sit for several hours, or days even. Soak in it. Splash it on your arms, face, neck and chest. Wet a washcloth and put it on your neck as you go about your chores. The oils released will cool your body in a way never experienced! For hours! I always felt like that old York peppermint pattie commercial, you know the people who experienced the ultimate cool? 😉

    1. Mary – I had to tell you this…the other day a whole crew of midwives was here to turn my stubborn baby so she’d stop living transverse. For various reasons, mostly obvious ones, it was a very painful procedure for me and I got through it by imagining I was splashing in the mint bath you told us about. I was so glad I’d read your comment before that episode! I’ll try it again should I ever go into labor!

  7. Great post! I planted some mint this year. I have it in a raised bed with some other herbs. I was surprised by all the different mints that were available this year – chocolate mint!

    Thanks so much for linking up to The Creative HomeAcre Blog Hop. We hope to see you again this Sunday!

    1. I just put in chocolate mint, too! I love the citrus mints and pineapple mint, although is grows more like bee balm than ground mint.

  8. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who loves mint! I make my own soda from it, love mojitos, use it around our coop and barn to repel rodents and also use it to garnish desserts and perk up a leg of lamb. Great post!

    Thanks for linking up to the weekly From the Farm Barn Hop.
    Fresh Eggs Daily

  9. I add a bunch of mint to my tea before steeping in hot water when making iced tea. I also add it to tabbouleh, pho broth, thai lettuce tacos. I muddle mint with a little sugar and lime juice before adding simple syrup for mojitos (one with rum, one without), along the same lines I add it to my simple syrup when making limeade.

    Thanks for telling me about the culture required for mint. I have always had difficulty keeping my mint alive – it’s because it’s location is well-drained but arid.

  10. Oh my goodness, mint belongs in a 4×4 bed far far away from anything else you love! It will take over your whole garden if you aren’t careful! But, I LOVE mint. My needs and sunny space are small, so I grow my mint in pots. Loved this post!

  11. My mint patch at our old house was out of control! When we moved in the fall I transplanted a bunch at our new house. I even made a garden bed just for my mint plants. Alas it is SO dry here this spring and it is struggling to grow. Can you believe that?! I’m shocked. I have to figure out a watering system to get it going since I’m craving some homemade mint tea 🙂

    1. That is hard to imagine, Annie, but I’ve had that kind of thing happen before with basil when we moved to North Carolina. Of course, I’m from northern California where the growing season is eleven months long and gardening is “easy”! If I lived nearer, I’d bring you a thousand more starts!

  12. Great list of mint ideas! Thank you for sharing at the Art of Home-Making Mondays! I know others will appreciate this post too!

  13. Mint and I are good buddies. We love mint for keeping the pests away, tummy troubles, sun burns, pain relieving and so much more! Thanks for sharing on Natural Living Monday!

  14. We live in hardiness zone six and do nothing and our mint comes back with a vengeance every year. For drying, we just put it in Brown grocery bags, roll them shut, an shake once our twice daily. Easier than bundling. Finally, you forgot to mention the BEST use for mint, ICE CREAM!! 🙂

  15. I love my mint patch, but you are so right- it does take over. Thanks for all the great ideas of what to do with all my mint. I need the one for the ants- thanks. We use our mint for tea, lemonade, and I just cut some and put it in a small vase in my kitchen. Smells so good.

    1. I just did that, too, Judee! Actually it was my daughter and its helped with the flies in the kitchen big time. Plus, its so pretty!

  16. Mint and Jalapeno jelly is good too. Especially on lamb chops,ham. Also make Mint Pesto for a change. Make Mint ice cubes for summer time drinks,or left over sauces and mint to ice trays the when you need just a little extra taste you got sauced mint cubes store in freezer bags or glass jars in refrigerator freezer.

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