Why We Love Mint

Got mint? This powerhouse herb delivers big flavor in an easy-to-grow plant. Discover 13 reasons to make room for mint in your garden.

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Williams-Sonoma.com

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Williams-Sonoma.com

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Mints Make Beautiful Bouquets

Mints weave a striking tapestry in the vase, adding different leaf textures, colors and scents. Count on mint to hold its own as a centerpiece or use it to add movement and refreshing green shades to other garden-fresh arrangements. A fresh mint bouquet inside offers an easy way to take a quick snip when prepping favorite dishes. In terms of flavor, mint is at its freshest when first picked. The longer mint sits in water, flavor notes shift and may become bitter, especially if you see roots forming along submerged stems.

Mint Lemonade

Give summer’s favorite thirst quencher a refreshing twist by adding mint sprigs to your pitcher. Just add washed mint stems to a pitcher of lemonade, and let it sit at least 30 minutes. Strain before serving — or not. Serve over ice in tall glasses garnished with a mint stem and lemon wedge. Mint also blends well with iced tea and makes cooling herb water. To maximize mint flavor, before adding leaves to your brew, crush them slightly to release essential oils. Bruised edges will brown, but it won’t harm your beverage. Simply strain leaves before serving.

Treat Owies

Peppermint can offer a healing touch for many ailments — sunburn, headache or muscle pain. To release mint’s medicinal properties, crush leaves first using a mortar and pestle or blender. For headaches and muscle cramps, make a paste of crushed leaves and water, place between pieces of cheesecloth (or other thin cloth), and apply to skin at the site of pain. For a tension headache, apply the poultice to the base of your neck. For sunburn, mix crushed leaves with cool water, strain, and spritz the water onto the burn. The menthol in peppermint feels cooling to the skin.

Mint Grows In Wet Spots

Mints love moist soil and transform your yard’s soggy spots from muddy to eye-catching. It’s a great plant for covering the ground at the base of downspouts or pulling its weight in a rain garden. Different mints prefer varying amounts of sunshine, so do your homework before choosing a variety. Mints spread freely by underground stems and can easily overtake formal plantings. Take care where you tuck it into soil — make sure it has room to roam.

Creates Lush Pots

Mint of all types makes a striking container garden. Count on mint to fill large containers like these galvanized troughs to quickly create a puddle of green. Using mint in your outdoor pots keeps the refreshing scent close at hand, whether you’re harvesting for culinary use or scenting an outdoor seating area. To release mint’s heady aroma, brush plants as you pass by. Mint also helps repel biting insects outdoors. Crush a few leaves, add water and then let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Strain into a spray bottle and spritz skin or seating areas to help deter bad bugs.

Many Varieties

Mints come in an array of leaf sizes, colors and flavors. You can easily find a mint that suits your taste or fills the right spot in your garden design or recipe box. Some common mint varieties include: ‘Kentucky Colonel’ spearmint (the go-to mint for juleps and mojitos), ginger mint (gold-streaked leaves taste great in teas), pineapple mint (variegated green and white leaves, fruity flavor), ‘Hillary’s Sweet Lemon’ mint (a cross between apple and lime mint) and apple mint (large fuzzy leaves on tall plants).

Season Savory Dishes

Mint adds an alluring flavor to many vegetables, including peas, asparagus and carrots. In this rendition, mint kicks up the bite in a salad of ribbon-cut summer squash, peas, shaved ricotta cheese and green onions. Mint also plays well in a tomatillo and lime ceviche, pairs yummily with pork and helps cool spicy Indian food when blended with yogurt. Play with different mint varieties in the kitchen to find the flavor blends your family likes.

Grows Well Indoors

For the most part, mint is an aggressive plant in the garden, which makes it an ideal herb for your indoor garden. Its vigorous growth isn’t dampened by growing conditions inside. As long as it has a sunny windowsill, it will reward you with flavorful leaves, no matter the season. Snip stems often to keep the plant bushy and unfurling new leaves, which pack the mintiest punch.

Mint Tea

Mint tea is good for what ails you, and it whips up in a jiffy. Steep fresh (bruised) or dried leaves in hot water for a pure cup of natural goodness. Mint tea is a go-to cure for an upset stomach, indigestion, gas pain or cramping. Sip it warm and inhale the menthol aroma to help alleviate a stuffy nose or drink it chilled for a refreshing cool drink.

Mint Draws Pollinators

If you want to lure pollinator insects to your garden, including lawn grub-eating beauties like this blue-winged wasp, grow a patch of mint and let it bloom. Mint flower spikes feature many small blossoms, the kind that pollinating insects can’t resist. Expect to see bees, beneficial wasps, flower flies, sweat bees and butterflies. If you want to harvest mint for drying, do so before flowers appear. Once blossoms start to form, the flavor profile of leaves shifts to become bitter.

Makes Summer Fruit Sing

Use mint with fruit to create memorable desserts, salads and salsas. Combine it with honey and lemon juice for a go-to dressing that blends well with summer’s best fruits, from peaches to watermelon, to berries. Whip up delectable fruit salsas like cherry nectarine (shown), featuring chopped mint for a zingy bite. In the salsa department, craft your own one-of-a-kind dip like roasted tomato mint salsa, mango mint salsa with ginger, or pineapple mint salsa with red onion. Mint helps cool spicy peppers in a salsa, which gives your tastebuds a hot-cool sensation that’s delightful.

Roots Easily In Water

Mint is one of the garden’s easiest herbs to propagate. Simply gather a few sprigs, and place into water. Remove any leaves that would fall beneath the waterline. Within 10 to 14 days, roots will start to form along submerged stems. Wait to transplant mint cuttings until stems are full of roots.

Looks Great In The Garden

In the garden, mint can be a thug, growing aggressively and invading surrounding soil rapidly. It spreads by above-ground and underground stems. Planted near stepping stones or pavers, mint quickly grows around, beneath and between them. The best way to keep mint contained in the garden is to plant it in a submerged container that is at least several feet below the soil. Allow a few inches of the container to extend above the soil to keep mint from wandering out. This mint is effectively contained in a half-buried plastic trash can with drainage holes drilled in the bottom.

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