Discovering our food: mint

Hello my dear readers,

Ready to discover another fabulous ingredient from our kitchens?

Today I want to share with you one of my favourite aromatic herbs: the mint.

Discovering our food mint_Popsicle Society

In today’s post we will see:

  • mint’s origins

  • how to grow mint

  • mint seasonality 

  • varieties of mint

Let’s begin.

Mint’s Origins

Mint origins_Popsicle Society

Mint, an officinal plant that has been known since ancient times and belongs to the Labiate family (Lamiaceae), such as sage, thyme and rosemary.

With a digestive, antiseptic and refreshing action, it is useful for fighting nausea and bad breath.

Mint, Mentha genus, is a perennial herbaceous plant, strongly aromatic, with a characteristic pungent and spicy taste.

Over 600 mint varieties are known. In fact, the plant tends to cross spontaneously giving rise to new varieties.

Perfumed herb, it is widely used in candy, chewing gum, syrups and toothpaste. It is also used in many medicinal preparations and in detergents for intimate hygiene.

Diffusion area

It is found throughout Europe, Asia and Africa.

Very well known since ancient times by the Egyptians and Romans, it was used by Galen as a medicinal plant. It has multiple properties as well as being renowned for giving freshness.

Origin of its name

According to a legend, mint would take its name from the nymph Myntha, a creature of extraordinary beauty loved by Pluto, which was transformed into a plant by Proserpina, jealous wife of Pluto, and her characteristic perfume was given by the god as a last gesture of love.

The mint plant

The mint plant_Popsicle Society

It is a polymorphic genus and its appearance varies greatly depending on the variety.

The stem has a variable length from 30 cm up to one meter.

The color varies from green to violet.

The leaves, in most species, contain glands rich in essential oils that give the characteristic aroma. They are of a more or less intense green color, opposite and mostly lanceolate and covered with a light hair.

The flowers are small with purple calyx and violet or whitish corolla carried by long flower heads. They bloom from the bottom up. Flowering occurs in the height of summer and continues until autumn.

The fruit is a tetrachenium which contains 1 to 4 seeds.

How to grow mint

How to cultivate the mint in the pot and in the garden

It grows and develops easily if grown in the garden or in a pot.

Mint is a very easy aromatic to grow.

Easy to grow, mint is a plant that easily adapts to all types of climate.

Its leaves are rich in beneficial properties for health.

Here’s how to grow it in pots on the balcony or in the open ground in the garden.

Mint lives in a temperate climate, but if the temperature is too cool, its aroma loses intensity.

Mint is an incredibly easy to grow plant: it is so much a weed that it is often kept in pots to prevent it from expanding beyond its own plot. The intense and fresh scent fills the lungs and you just need to put a piece of leaf in your mouth to feel the flavor. It grows well both on the balcony and in the vegetable garden and is a perennial plant, so it is not necessary to sow it every year.

Mint is useful to the garden because it is unwelcome to various pests, it is therefore an excellent neighbor for many vegetables, in particular it is good to have it near the tomato plants.

Mint is not a delicate or difficult plant to grow, on the contrary it has a rapid and intense growth, which over time can become invasive. In nature it prefers, for its development, fresh and humid places.

It is a very adaptable and resistant plant which, if grown in a hot and dry climate, tends to exhibit greater quantities of essential oils in the leaves, thus acquiring a greater aroma.

Here are all the useful tips for growing mint at home or in the garden.

How to cultivate mint_Popsicle Society

Climate conditions and soil suitable for mint cultivation

Easy to grow both in pots on the balcony and in the ground in the garden, mint is a plant that easily adapts to all types of climate, both shady and exposed to the sun, provided that they are not too humid.

Since the plant prefers soils rich in organic substances, it is good to renew the soil at least once every two years.

To avoid clayey or heavy soils that do not allow the correct drainage of the water.

When it is very cold or during particularly rainy periods, also remember to cover the plant with a plastic sheet in order to prevent the leaves from getting wet and ruined.

If grown in areas of low humidity, the plant will gain in essence richness but will lose in development.

Sowing 

Mint is a long-lived plant whose sowing must take place with the arrival of spring even if it is preferable to buy the seedlings to be transplanted then in pot or in the garden.

Mint also reproduces more easily by cutting of vegetative apices. The latter, at least 20-25 cm long, must be cut from the plant around March-April or early autumn with a sharp and well disinfected scissors so as not to infect the tissues of the plant. The apexes are then placed in a glass with water or in the ground in order to allow their rooting. Subsequently, if you have chosen to proceed with pot cultivation, as soon as the plant sprouts, it will be necessary to move the plant to the sun.

As for the sowing, after spreading the seeds, cover them with a thin layer of potting soil and water slightly so as to favor their sprouting.

If you decide to proceed with the cultivation in pots, choose a fairly large one and in terracotta: the mint plant tends to expand as it grows and therefore needs space.

Watering and mint fertilisation 

The mint plant prefers regular watering in order to keep the soil always humid: instead avoid wetting the leaves so as not to damage them.

Fertilization must take place every 2-3 years during the spring period, preferring a mineral fertilizer based on potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen.

Periodically remove dry branches and leaves and, if you choose cultivation in the ground, also weeds, in order to favor the oxygenation of the soil.

Mint harvest

In general, the summer is the ideal time for the mint harvest: the leaves rich in menthol and essential oils, can be eaten fresh or left to dry and then reused for the preparation of herbal teas. It can be dried in a well-ventilated place in the shade, and after that it is advisable to keep it in airtight containers and away from light.

Pests of mint

The mint plant is easily attacked by parasitic fungi, Puccinia menthae; its stems and leaves fill with swellings and reddish dots until they become blackish specks. Infested plants must be eliminated and burned. Snails are also a danger, as they are fond of mint leaves.

Mint flower_Popsicle Society

Seasonality

Summer: from June to September. The best month is June.

Varieties of Mint 

There are several varieties of mint.

Among these, the best known and most used is undoubtedly peppermint, with a very intense and pleasant smell, with a bitter aftertaste, also used as a medicinal plant, thanks to its intense antiseptic properties; mint viridis is the most common mint in the kitchen, used for aubergines or mojito; the spicata mint (spearmint) is very similar to this variety and can better manage the heat; longifolia mint is a species with larger dimensions, intense aroma and is also used in cooking; finally the suaveolens mint or the apple mint is also used for infusions and herbal teas.

Peppermint

Peppermint_Popsicle Society

It is the most famous variety. It is actually a spontaneous hybrid between Mentha Aquatica and Mentha spicata. It reaches 60 cm in height and has a woody rhizome with a development similar to that of the strawberry. Its leaves are opposite carried by short petioles, serrated, covered with hair and provided with numerous glands.

Uses of peppermint:

For its properties it lends itself to various uses as well as for culinary purposes. It is used in herbal medicine for internal use for its antispasmodic, analgesic, carminative, choleretic and antiseptic properties, while for external use it boasts flavoring, refreshing, analgesic, antipruritic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Used for candy and chewing gum.

Mentha Aquatica or Water Mint

Mentha aquatica or water mint_Popsicle Society

Mentha aquatica lives in very humid or marshy soils and is characterized by a flower head inflorescence. The stems are erect and covered with hairs while the flowers are few in number.

Uses of Mentha Aquatica:

Suitable for both gastronomic and herbal use.

Essential oil is used in many preparations.

A tea made from its leaves has traditionally been used in the treatment of fevers, headaches, digestive disorders and various minor ailments. It is also used as a mouth-wash and a gargle for treating sore throats, ulcers and bad breath.

The Mentha Aquatica plant repels flies, mice and rats. It has a pleasant, fresh scent and was formerly used as a strewing herb and has been strewn in granaries to keep mice and rats off the grain.

Mentha Arvensis or Wild Mint

Mentha Arvensis or wild mint_Popsicle Society

Mentha arvensis is widespread in humid and submontane areas. Its branches are without apical flowers and the leaves are hairy and broad.

Uses of Mentha Arvensis or Wild Mint:

The leaves raw or cooked are edible with a strong minty flavour and a slight bitterness. They are used as a flavouring in salads or cooked foods.

From its dried leaves can make a herb tea and the essential oil of the plant can be used to flavour sweets and beverages.

The whole plant is anaesthetic, antispasmodic, antiseptic, aromatic, and has agents that counteract inflammation, that relieve and remove gas from the digestive system, induce sweating, promote or assist the flow of menstrual fluid, promote secretion of milk, relieve fever and thirst, give strength and tone to the stomach, and is a stimulant.

Mentha Longifolia or Horse Mint

Mentha longifoglio or horse mint_Popsicle Society

Mentha longifolia is characterized by a spike inflorescence. Very widespread in the spontaneous state, it has whitish, silky leaves with flowers arranged in dense clusters.

Uses of Mentha Longifolia or Horse Mint:

Leaves can be eaten raw or cooked in salads, chutneys and other cooked foods. A herb tea and essential oil can be made from the leaves.

Horse mint, like many other members of this genus, is often used as a domestic herbal remedy, being valued especially for its antiseptic properties and its beneficial effect on the digestion.

Do you like mint? Is one of my favourite aromatic herb especially for tea and mojito 😉

Join me next time and we will see how to use mint, how to choose it, wash it, store it, what are its properties and benefits, contraindications and some interesting facts about mint.

See you next time!

Thank you all for reading.

And if you would like to discover more about our food, you may enjoy my previous posts

Wish you a wonderful day!

And please stay safe!

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Love, R

Popsicle Society_eat your greens emoji

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60 thoughts on “Discovering our food: mint

    1. I’m glad you like it 😉 Oh yes, I love mint in tea, salads and with meats or yogurt…it gives such a flavourful touch 😉 Thank you very much Sophie! Have a wonderful day! 🌸

  1. Mint is an amazing fruit, That is our childhood menthol 😋 and medicine for lot of health issues. Lot of home work Ribana 😍 Lot of information about Mint. Added knowledge about our food, thanks for sharing, Have a wonderful day ✨💐

    1. Thank you very much Simon for your time and support always! I do love mint 😉 and I do love to know more about our food 😉 Wish you a wonderful day too Simon! 🤩

  2. I love mint and finally started to grow it in my backyard garden. It’s perfect for a hot and cold drink and in salads too. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 😀 Aiva

    1. I’m glad you like it! I’ve experienced growing it too and it grew so big…I couldn’t stop it 😉 Is really great 😉 In drink, in salads, with meats, yogurt…always a great touch 😉
      Thank you Aiva! Wish you a wonderful day! 🌸

  3. Detailed and helpful article about mint, thank you for sharing.
    I know this plant since I am a kid. My mom would infuse a few leaves of mint and give me the infusion to drink when I complained of bellyache.
    We had mint plants in our back garden Papa loved mint chutney and Mom used the leaves to aromatise ‘briyani’ dish.
    Thank you for reviving these childhood memories.
    Thank you also for dropping in and reading my post.

    1. Thank you very much for reading! I’m glad I could make you revive some childhood memories 😍 Mint it reminds of my childhood too…was always there, present in teas or food 😉 I do love the mint chutney too 😋

      1. Thank you too 🙏 glad you love the mint chutney as well. In those days when we did not have the electric grinder, I used to grind the mint chutney myself on a stone grinder commonly called ‘roche cari’ in Mauritius.

    1. Oh yes…mint chocolate? From my friends and family I’m the only one that likes mint chocolate 🤪 I’m glad I’m not alone 😉 After eight is my favorite 😋 and mojito always 😉😋

  4. Oh, yes, I recommend going with a pot for mint, or it will take over the world! I think peppermint is a particularly attractive mint. I bought one small start of it last year, and it quickly filled a large pot with pretty, dark green foliage. I haven’t gotten around to using it for anything yet, but at least it’s patio-worthy.

    1. Hahaha…yes! I had the same experience 😉 Started with a small plant and then filled a large pot quickly! I’ve cut it several times and it continued to grow back quickly 😉🌱 Is really great! And beside using it I love also the scent of it 😉 Is a nice perfume for my balcony 😉

  5. My mom has mint growing in a bucket on her back porch and I love to smell it! Not too long ago went to a garden shop for a class and they had chocolate mint plants. I regret not buying some!

  6. I love mint, especially mint tea which I drink a lot. We have wild mint growing in our area usually close to lakeshores. I haven’t seen any along the river here though. I always used to dry my own leaves for making tea, now I buy it. It’s great for relieving an upset stomach, but I just like it anytime, hot or cold. Now on to the next part! Great post Ribana!😀😺☕

    1. Thank you very much Steve! Oh yes, I used to find wild mint too back when I was with my grandparents! Honestly also now sometimes when I see a plant similar to mint, I’ll go and take a leave and rub it to feel its smell but sadly is never mint 😞
      At least not here in Singapore, only in the botanic or herb gardens 🌱
      I love mint tea too, hot or cold doesn’t matter! It was always my favorite 😉 🍵

      1. I like cold mint tea on a hot summer day, very refreshing! Speaking of mint tea, it’s time for me to start picking raspberry leaves to dry for my winter supply of tea!😋☕

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