A reader very good question was posed to me lately: “What do I do with all this mint?!” Come learn how to grow, how to contain, and how to use mint.
Mint is probably the most easily recognized herb on the planet, at least for flavor. It is in everything from toothpaste to cookies to household cleaners.
It’s a favorite herb among gardeners, too, because it has some very fine feature:
- Mint is very winter hardy and greens back up early in the spring.
- It requires very little care beyond consistent harvesting.
- The smell of mint is both calming and invigorating.
- It’s used very commonly as a wellness herb to soothe the effects of colds and flus.
- Pollinators love mint blooms.
However, mint can also be very invasive in the garden! To put it mildly, mint spreads like a virus in a kindergarten, even going under pavement.
How to Grow Mint
For some gardeners, simply planting mint in the ground and watering it regularly is enough to establish a large mint patch. I grow so much of it that I’m using it to replace my lawn in several places!
However, other gardeners can struggle to get their mint patch started. If that’s you, try these mint growing ideas:
- 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. Which means your soil will need some drainage, usually in the form of smaller rocks and lots of organic matter.
- 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.
- This herb will over winter (usually) to zone 5, especially if you throw some straw over it .
Mint Growing Tips
It will propagate itself by sending out rooting stems under the soil. You can cut these stems with a sharp shovel and dig up large patches of mint to spread around the garden.
You can also take stem cuttings from the mint plants in the spring and fall, and/or take stem cuttings to root in water in the heat of the summer. If you’re not yet sure what all that means, you can learn to grow herbs from cuttings!
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 and causes mold or rot.
Once your baby mint plants have roots, you can plant them in full sun or shade, and anything in between. Some varieties are more vulnerable to summer heat than others, so watch them carefully if they’re newly planted.
If you prefer not to grow it in the garden, you’re in luck because mint grows well in containers. (I daresay it would grow well on the dark side of the moon, as well.) In fact, many people choose to keep mint in containers so that it does run all over the garden.
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:
—>>>The Potted Herb<<<—
Drying and Storing
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 of mint off at the base (don’t worry, it WILL grow back).
- Bundle 5-10 stems. You don’t want too many in one bundle because they might mold as they dry. This is really only a problem if you live where its humid.
- Strip the leaves at the base of the stems and then use a rubber band or string to tie the bundled stems together.
- 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.
>>Learn more about How to To Harvest and Dry Herbs<<<
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.
How to Use Fresh & Dried Leaves
We have listed below four different ways to use both fresh and dried mint leaves (and even mint oil). We hope this encourages you to start experimenting with mint in many different ways.
There are a lot of recipes, methods, and tutorials for using mint in the home, the garden, and in your health regimen. Please don’t stop reading with just this post!
To get you started, as I mentioned, mint is the number 1 flavor that most people associate with toothpaste and tooth powder? If you’d like an easy way to start using mint, please try making your own tooth cleaner this week.
Here are two tutorials on using mint in tooth powder (used like toothpaste):
- Mint Tooth Powder from Wild Turmeric, which has a sea salt base. If you’ve never used a salt “toothpaste” before, this is a great recipe to begin with!
- A Better Way to Thrive has instructions for making more traditional tooth powder which includes mint, as well as other herbs.
Below are several other ways to use the mint harvest!
Use to Alleviate Stomach Upset
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 tincture on hand, chewing the herb fresh is also beneficial.
Making a basic tea from the leaves 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.
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.
Use 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 easy way to use mint to fight ants is to add 10-20 drops to a spray bottle of un-chlorinated water and spray 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 (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 it 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 it dried to craft sachets to leave around as well. Learn to make a re-usable herb sachet.
Use When Cooking
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 it raw will help you retain more nutrients and essential oils, however it’s very easy to cook with it. 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 leaves is this recipe 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.
- 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.
- Tear some leaves into tiny pieces and put it in your water and drink it down.
- If you maintain a water kefir, here’s a recipe for mint lemonade water kefir.
Remember, if you’re truly overheated, you may need to seek medical help.
Gifts from the Garden
A simple gift to give is a cutting or baby plant. 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 if they don’t want it to spread in the garden.
Who wouldn’t like to get Homemade Chocolate Mint Extract as their neighbor gift this Christmas?! 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. You may notice that Jan’s writing features a lot in this article. That’s because, if you want to learn how to use 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: