Mint: A Growing Guide

This refreshing herb transfers easily from garden to kitchen.

|||||
Mints are perennial herbs with squared, four-sided stems with opposite leaves and small lipped flowers. All parts of the plants are pungent. Most mints are rampant spreaders, forming a thick mat of spreading stolons (creeping underground stems) just under the surface of the ground. Aboveground, plants produce 2-to 3-foot upright stems. Most are hardy in Zones 3–8, but check the species you want before you buy. 
 
The genus Mentha has many species and cultivars. Mentha × piperita, peppermint, and M. spicata, spearmint, are the most familiar. Herb gardeners can also grow M. suaveolens, the furry apple mint; M. × piperita f. citrata, orange mint, and popular chocolate mint, M. × piperita f. citrata ‘Chocolate’; M. requienii, the creeping, mosslike Corsican mint; and numerous hybrids or variegated forms. 
 
Growing Mint
All mints prefer a cool, moist spot in partial shade but will also grow in full sun. Mint is extremely variable from seed. Instead, order plants from a reputable source, or visit a nursery to find plants whose flavor and aroma appeal to you. One plant of each cultivar you select will soon provide more than enough mint for home use—the big problem is to keep them from overrunning all neighboring plants. To avoid this, plant mints in bottomless containers that are at least 15 inches deep and sunk in the ground with one or two inches protruding above the soil surface, or plant above the ground in tubs and barrels. 
 
Harvesting
Snip leaves or sprigs as needed. To harvest in quantity, cut stems to within an inch or so above the ground. You can make several harvests, depending on the length of the season. Hang mint in loose bunches to air dry, dry individual leaves on a tray in a food dehydrator, or freeze in self-sealing bags. 
 
Uses
Enjoy aromatic mint teas hot or iced. Peppermint tea, a centuries-old remedy, can calm an upset stomach. Add chopped fresh leaves to lamb, rice, salads, or cooked vegetables. Corsican mint is an attractive creeper, good between paving stones or in the rock garden. 
 
 

ADVERTISMENT