Mint is very easy to grow – in fact it can get away from you a bit as it spreads underground then shoots up. For this reason, many people prefer to grow mint in a pot (which can be buried in the herb garden) so it is contained. I am happy to let mine go free in the garden, and just remove suckers/shoots that pop up where I don’t want them, it is impressive how far from the original plant these can appear at times. I have had an unplanned but attractive little hedge of mint come up between the concrete path and the raised garden bed, it smells fantastic when I inevitably step all over it reaching into the garden bed!
This article is about the Common Mint, and also covers growing the Spearmint and Peppermint mint varieties (the species Mentha also has some “fruity” varieties worth trying such as apple and pineapple).
This herb prefers a damp semi-shaded area, so when growing mint choose a spot at the bottom of a slope or at the base of your raised garden bed where it will enjoy the run-off and get a good soak.
Depending on how cold / frosty it is where you live – over winter the mint can die down and look a bit daggy – just trim it back, it should be well mulched in cold districts to protect from frosts.
There is a Vietnamese Mint (also called Laksa Herb) that is a different plant altogether….
Pick leaves as needed, don’t be afraid to snip off whole stems (once the plant is established!) as it regrows very quickly in the warmer months.
Pick the little sets of leaves at the top of each stem to use as a garnish for desserts, these look especially cute on a mini pav with berries, or on a chocolate mousse.
Mint leaves are a lovely addition to many warm and cold dishes, and many a fine cocktail too! Synonomous with the fresh flavours of Vietnamese rice vermicilli salads, chopped mint works beautifully with coriander to give a fresh clean taste to many Asian dishes.
Use mint in your potato salad, some traditionalists would never make it without!
In the Kitchen:
Mint is a wonderful partner to fresh green pea and broad bean dishes, just chop and sprinkle over the top before serving. If you are picking handfuls of mint, try making mint sauce or mint & apple jelly to go with your next lamb roast. Chop and mix with natural yoghurt for a simple summer dressing.
Pick the little pairs of leaves at the top of the stems to decorate fancy drinks and desserts, pairs well with chocolate and strawberry dishes.
Make a lovely pot of mint tea – make sure you use freshly picked clean leaves. Steep in hot water (just off the boil) for 5 minutes, strain and serve.
You can’t go past a Mojito – bash (muddle?!) together some mint leaves and brown sugar, then add white rum, lime juice and soda water. Decorate with mint leaves and fresh lime – stunning!
Mint leaves can also be used to make jugs of water a little bit fancy – add mint leaves and rasperries or thinly sliced apple to give the water a delicate flavour.
A cooled mint tea makes a pretty good toner, keep it in the fridge and apply with cotton wool pads for a brilliant clean feeling. Also feels great applied as a spritz to your face on a hot dry day.