So you’re a young river nymph, and Hades, the god of the underworld, takes a liking to you. You think he’s kind of hot, so you start a torrid affair with him. The thing is, he’s married to another nymph, Persephone, who’s now the goddess of the underworld and spring growth. She finds out, and decides to turn you into a plant that everyone will walk on. Your boyfriend can’t do anything to fix that, so he tries to make good (yea, right) by making you smell pretty. Every time someone walks all over you, they’ll remember you by your fresh and minty aroma.
Such is the sad story of Menthe, who became known as the herb mint. I love botanical myths, and I love mint. It’s probably one of the best know herbs and is used in a huge variety of products to flavor or scent everything from soap to toothpaste to chewing gum. Our breathe would certainly not smell as nice without mint. Mint has been used as an herbal medicine to calm upset stomachs, relieve headaches, and soothe itchy skin. As a culinary herb. mint has global appeal. It is a common cooking ingredient in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Asia, Europe, and Mexico.
In the garden, you can plant peppermint, spearmint, Kentucky mint (perfect for mint juleps!), apple mint, chocolate mint, orange mint. There are about 70 different varieties of mint to choose from. Mint is fast spreading and grows by sending out runners both below and above the ground. Several years ago, I put mint into a raised bed thinking the bed would contain it. Wrong! There was mint everywhere! Runners grew under the bed and all through my lawn, and it was nearly impossible to get rid of. Granted my lawn smelled great (thank you, Menthe), but it choked out a lot of other plants. I didn’t want to use any weed killer, so I just stopped watering for awhile until it finally died.
Having learned my lesson, I plant mint for myself and my clients in pots or in an area where it’s not going to bother anything else. Mint likes full sun (but can handle afternoon shade), fertile soil, and regular water. You can plant mint outdoors, and it will stay green to zone 8 with roots surviving to zone 5. Mint also has a pretty pink or lavender flowers. Pinch them back in order to help preserve the best flavor in the leaves. I like to leave some to flower, however, since bees and other beneficial insects love the flowers.
What is your favorite way to use mint?