Mint 411

Learn the history and myriad uses for this herb.

Good and Green

Good and Green

Pour the shake into a tall glass and serve immediately. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Photo by: Photo by Sam Henderson

Photo by Sam Henderson

Yes, it’s excellent in a Mojito, and without its flavor none of us would know the joys of mint chocolate chip ice cream. But what do you know about mint besides its super-fresh flavor? If the answer is “not much” follow along: here’s a crash course on the history, lore and many uses of this versatile herb.

Herbal Lore

In Greek mythology, mint – a classification that includes the popular varieties of spearmint and peppermint – represents hospitality. Mortals rubbed mint leaves on their dining tables to welcome the gods, while ancient Hebrews scattered it on their synagogue floors. It’s mentioned in the Bible, has been distilled by the Japanese for centuries, and mint sauce dates back to Roman times.  

Culinary Uses

Mint makes a refreshing addition to beverages, from lemonade to tea to the famous mint julep. It pairs well with grilled meats like lamb and poultry, is a popular addition to Middle Eastern dishes like tabbouleh and, of course, makes excellent desserts, from mint ice creams to flavoring in cookies, brownies and candy.

Medicinal Uses

Mint has been used for centuries to aid digestion and soothe the stomach. The pungent aroma is thought to reduce headaches, clear nasal passages and relieve colds and coughs. Mint juice is also used to cleanse the skin, treat infections and itching, and soothe insect bites. 

Growing Mint

Even the most novice gardener can grow mint with confidence. If anything, mint often grows too well: it can become invasive, completely overtaking your garden in a very short period of time. Keep your mint under control by planting it in a container or through frequent harvesting. While mint likes a sunny or partly sunny spot in the garden with a soil pH level between 6 and 7, it’s a hardy, persistent plant that can do well under many conditions. 

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