Plant for hospitable teas, for goodness, for cool streamsides and hot desires, and for family reunions!
Hardy from Zones 3-10. Up to 2 feet tall and spreads!
Mint is the ancient herb of hospitality. Its welcoming aroma perfumes every continent except Antarctica, and even they might have some in a greenhouse. Mint’s first known use was for aromatically cleaning rooms. Families scattered leaves on dirt floors so walking wafted the scent throughout the home. Similarly, Mint is well-known as a breath freshener and toothpaste flavor, as well as medicine for stomach and chest pains. It’s also a good companion plant along garden edges to invite beneficial pollinators and ward off undesired insects. Whether in house or body, Mint offers cleanliness and ease.
Most Mints are perennial herbs that spread as over and underground stolons, a running stem that roots itself as it grows. Just one plant will spread into an excellent tea patch, but take care where you plant it for the same reason! It loves water: streams, rivers, ponds, moist woodlands. We plant Mint in rainwater gardens and near overflows from cisterns and tanks. We like cutting leaves to dry for warm winter tea, but we also drink copious amounts of cool fresh tea with a little honey during the summer growing season. Mint is the vital ingredient for Touareg, or Moroccan, tea, common throughout the Maghreb region of North Africa and some Arabic-speaking countries. Hosts ceremonially offer guests up to three cups of green tea with Mint leaves and sugar as a sign of hospitality. Middle Eastern recipes often use Mint as a spice for lamb, or you can flavor jellies and ice creams!
The Latin mentha comes from the Greek nymph Minthe, once the lover of the underworldly god Pluto. When Pluto’s wife found out, she murdered Minthe, but Pluto revived her as the sweet-smelling herb. Mint’s known as Menta in many Spanish-speaking countries. The larger Mint family, Lamiaceae, also includes Basil, Rosemary, Sage, and Oregano. That family reunion would smell pretty good!
We grow Peppermint and Apple Mint.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is a cross between Watermint (aquatica) and Spearmint (spicata). Grows throughout North America, but originally from the Mediterranean. Pliny the Elder recorded that Peppermint decorated feast tables and bodies of the Greeks and Romans, who might’ve been eager to get the party started. After all, Aristotle wrote that Peppermint was an aphrodisiac! Alexander the Great apparently thought the same, because he outlawed Peppermint among his soldiers so steamy dreams wouldn’t take energy away from fighting. Ancient Egyptians might have grown Peppermint and 13th century medical documents in Iceland contain references to its use to relieve pain and gas. Other uses include raising body heat to bring on sweating, treating colds and coughs, and modern research is investigating Peppermint’s use for irritable bowel syndrome and dyspepsia.
Apple (Mentha suaveolens) also goes by Woolly Mint, a reference to the rounded light-green fuzzy leaves. Also hailing from the Mediterranean and commonly cultivated as a delicious ground cover. Grows easily from its stolons in sun and shade. The leaves are an excellent flavor for jelly, salads, teas, and couscous, a Maghrebi dish of stew poured over steamed wheat balls. In Spanish-speaking countries, it’s known as “the good herb,” hierbabuena. We won’t argue with that.
We grow our Mints from divisions in our patches.