This popular herb, also known as Mentha, has more than two dozen
species and hundreds of varieties. Peppermint and spearmint are the two
most popular culinary mints.
In Greek mythology, Minthe was a lovely nymph beloved by Pluto. His
jealous wife, Persephone, transformed Minthe into the homely mint
Most mint varieties tolerate some shade, but prefer direct
sun. Variegated types, however, require some protection from the sun.
When growing outdoors, plant one or two mint plants about 2 feet apart
in moist soil. One or two plants will easily expand to create a
generous groundcover, growing up to a foot tall or more.
Because mint spreads quickly, many gardeners plant it in a small pot
and then plant that pot in the ground or inside a larger container.
Another way to keep mint in check is to harvest the tips regularly and
pull up wayward runners. Mint blooms small flowers June to September;
trim these before the buds open to keep the plant compact.
Lift and replant mint every 3 - 4 years to keep the crop
flavor and scent strong.
Often used to flavor candy, gum, tea, water and, of course, the mint
julep, this variety of mint is also used to spice up peas, carrots, new
potatoes and custards.
Also known as garden mint, this variety is slightly milder than
peppermint. It is often used in grain salads such as tabbouleh and in
fruit salads, jellies, chutneys, and sauces. This herb may be partnered
with yogurt, cucumbers, peas, new potatoes, eggplant, lentils. cream
soups, veal or lamb.
With its strong apple-mint flavor and
fragrance, this herb is often used in teas and fruit salads.
This mint is a favorite of pastry chefs, who use it in their desserts.
Mint has been known to cure hiccups; chew on fresh mint leaves for
relief. Other medicinal benefits may include improved digestion and
weight loss; may provide relief from nausea, depression, fatigue and
headache; may help with asthma, memory loss, and skin care problems.
Mint contains vitamins A and C, as well as iron, calcium and riboflavin.