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.
In today’s post we will see:
how to grow mint
varieties of mint
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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!