October 21, 2016
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This article was written by Tammy Clayton, orginally published in 2014 from UK4, where it appeared under the title, Grow Your Own Mint.
Cool, refreshing Mentha has graced herb gardens for thousands of years. There are 10 mint common hybrids, all of which prefer cooler climates, and soil with consistent moisture.
Named after a rather fetching Roman nymph, Minthe, who caught the fancy of Pluto, the god of death. Upon discovering the dalliance, the enraged Persephone turned her into a ground-hugging plant. The Queen of The Shades wished her belittled and trod upon. The plot backfired – mint was very valuable to the ancient world, and globally through the ages.
PERKS & BENEFITS
Peppermint tea has been used forever to cure what ails you. It’s not just folklore. Even modern healers regard mint as a stimulant and tonic, among its many other benefits. The herb continues to hold immense value for its aromatic, culinary, and healing qualities.
Mint tea has antiseptic and antibacterial qualities. Consumed on a regular basis, it’s a good blood cleanser, herbal mouthwash, natural diarrhea remedy, antiseptic, and helps to combat acne or blemishes.
A massage with oil infused with bruised spearmint and peppermint leaves offers relief of migraines and aching muscles. Adding peppermint oil to lotions helps reduce pain and sensitivity. Strong mint oils also have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anesthetic properties for temporary relief of an infected tooth. It’s a good herbal remedy for swollen gums, mouth ulcers, mouth thrush, bruises, and swollen joints.
Revitalize skin, and clean pores with apple mint and spearmint in a facial steam. Gauze pads wetted with peppermint tea minimize dark circles under the eyes, or refresh them on days you wake up not well rested.
Some types of mint have greater concentrations of menthol valuable for essential oil used in commercial products and pharmaceuticals. Others are more palatable for eating.
Apple Mint (Mentha suaveolns)
Perfect for culinary use and tea. Lovely flavoring for drinks, sauces, jellies, fruit, and meat dishes. Hairy leaves make a poor garnish. A variegated version is called Pineapple Mint.
Blue Balsam Mint (Mentha x piperita)
A strong flavored hybrid often used for tea, culinary, aromatherapy, and cosmetic applications.
Candy Mint (Mentha x piperita)
Along with true peppermint, this is commonly used to flavor chewing gum, oral health products, and medicines. A valuable all around culinary herb too.
Chocolate Mint (Mentha piperita piperita)
As rich looking as it tastes, the dark leaves with brown veins offer big chocolate flavor laced with refreshing mint. Divinely aromatic. Perfect for teas, iced drinks, syrups, and desserts. Harvest before flowering to avoid bitter leaves.
Egyptian Mint (Mentha niliaca)
True biblical mint. Strongly flavored, and very aromatic. Used for tea and cooking.
Ginger Mint (Mentha x gentilis)
Distinctive flavor. Delicious tea, and fruit or vegetable seasoning. Gold variegation makes a beautiful garnish. Dried leaves are used in potpourris.
Orange Mint (Mentha aquatica ‘Citrata’)
Heavy scented, and also known as Bergamot Mint and Eau de Cologne Mint. Used fresh in beverages, vinegars, salads and desserts, and as a garnish. The distilled oil is used in making perfumes and Chartreuse liquor. Lime Mint has a slightly different flavor popular in Middle East cuisine and teas.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
The classic flavoring and fastest growing. It has the highest menthol content, and is used in making many products and medicines. A strong disinfectant just as at home in recipes and herbal remedies.
Scotch Mint (Mentha x gracilis)
More variegated and golden than other mints. It’s also known as Ginger Mint, and Scotch Spearmint. Commercially, it is found in chewing gum, toothpaste, and pharmaceuticals. Popular fresh garnish, and fruit dish seasoning.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
More mildly flavored than Peppermint. Used in teas, chutneys, salads, desserts, for seasoning vegetables, and more.
WHEN CAN I START… AND HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
True mint plants are sterile, and cannot be grown from seed. You can start mint cuttings when healthy plants are available to purchase, which is usually in spring.
Take tip cuttings just below a leaf node from non-blooming stems about 4 inches long using super sharp shears. You don’t want to crush the stem end. Remove a leaf or two from the bottom, and snip off the immature set of leaves at the tip. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone before inserting it into rockwool cubes.
It takes 1-2 weeks to get your cuttings rooted nicely in hydroponic starter cubes. Finishing the crop can be done in slabs or directly in the NFT trough. You can expect the first of unlimited harvests after transplant to be 4 weeks in summer, and 6-7 weeks in winter. Mints are perennial, and continue to produce future yields off the same roots.
Prefer using traditional potting methods? Start your cuttings in a glass of plain tap water. You’ll have new roots in less than a week. Let it sit a few more days, and new stems start forming at the leaf nodes. Use quality soilless mix that has excellent moisture retention with good drainage for potting. Remember that mint hates dry feet.
WHAT DO I NEED?
Both HID lamps and compact fluorescents running 14-16 hours a day will provide ample light for mint. Poor conditions and weak light make it prone to develop rust – an incurable and highly contagious plant disease. Do not buy plants with yellow or brown spots on either side of the leaf. If you find it on plants in your grow space, remove and destroy the plant immediately.
The sweetest flavor and heaviest oil yield comes from warm days and cool nights. No special nutrient requirements here. A standard NPK hydroponic nutrient can be used. Their preferred pH range is 5.5-6.5. Maintain day temps of 75-80°F, nights at 55-60°F with 75-80% humidity in summer for rooting and vegetative stages. You want lower humidity in the winter to prevent leaf mold.
Use liquid or slow release fertilizer in traditional container growing. Heavier feeding results in more abundant top growth. Be sure to maintain air humidity and keep the roots moist, but not waterlogged. Your yield will not be as high as plants grown hydroponically.
If you live in a cool climate, and give it soil with good moisture retention, growing mint outdoors is easy. For perfect leaves, water regularly, and don’t let the soil get completely dry. An excellent candidate for that wet spot in the yard, or a self-watering container. It does fine with at least 6 hours of direct sun a day, and good airflow. A slightly raised bed is wise; roots are shallow, and it spreads.
A mint plant can produce harvests for up to 15 years. If you’re growing it indoors using traditional potting methods, you will need to divide and repot periodically to maintain good vigor over such an extensive time. Root bound container plants never perform at optimums, and keeping media moisture present becomes difficult when root mass is greater than the amount of media.
For the best flavor, harvest mint leaves in the morning. Never cut in excess of two thirds of the plant’s height. Hydroponic NFT system harvest yield should be 2-3 pounds per 5-feet of trough in summer, and lower in winter at 1-2 pounds per 10-feet.
CULINARY OR HEALTHY INSPIRATION
Restaurants don’t give you after dinner mints for breath freshening. It’s to aid digestion, a practice that has been in use since ancient Rome. And then there’s all those home remedies, where fresh mint have higher beneficial impact than dry.
Many delicious recipes from around the world feature mint in fresh, dried, or extract form. You will often see it paired with lemon, and used in everything from entrees featuring fish, lamb, or chicken to fruit or vegetable dishes, salads, sauces, desserts, and beverages. Mint jelly is simple to can, and always have on hand.
Fresh mint is necessary for whipping up a proper Limonana, Mint Julep, Mojito, and the best tasting Creme de Menthe liqueur you’ve ever had.
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