Mint is a nearly foolproof culinary herb that is an absolute “must have” in your kitchen garden. You should definitely plan on growing mint in your herb garden. This versatile and tough plant is a dream come true for beginning gardeners and those with a black thumb.
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Growing, Harvesting, Preserving, and Using Mint
Mint belongs to same plant family as many other popular culinary herbs, including basil, oregano, and rosemary.
Like its culinary relatives, mint prefers full sun. It enjoys a more moist soil than most, however. In fact, if you keep the soil around your mint damp, it will reward you with more strongly scented leaves.
There are many varieties of mint available, with peppermint and spearmint being two of the most popular. However, don’t limit yourself! You can find chocolate mint, which is a real treat when brewed into tea.
Mint is an excellent companion plant because its strong scent repels ants and many other garden pests. However, it is an aggressive grower that can quickly become an invasive nuisance. To make it behave, plant mint in containers or sink large bottomless plastic containers into the ground to prevent this assertive little fellow from taking over your garden.
We planted mint in a tower created with two giant truck tires. Three small mint plants soon filled the tower. Each spring it tries to escape through the bottom and needs to be aggressively clipped back. Don’t underestimate mint’s ability to spread.
To harvest mint, simply take clippings as needed from your plants.
Look for the newest growth because it is the most flavorful. Rinse leaves thoroughly and pat dry before using.
Cooking with Mint
With dozens of mint varieties to choose from, there are countless ways to enjoy this versatile culinary herb. For starters, mint is a wonderful addition to ice tea and other beverages. Mint is a key ingredient in several classic cocktails: mint juleps, mojitos and gimlets.
Bruise, or “muddle”, the leaves before adding to drinks for best results.
Recipes Using Mint
Mint is also a nice surprise when tossed into mixed green salads. Roll leaves and then slice into thin sections first so the flavor in each bite doesn’t overwhelm the other ingredients.
Mint is a welcome addition to many desserts, as well. Try adding finely chopped mint leaves to chocolate chip cookie dough before baking. Or use fresh mint leaves to enhance homemade sorbet or ice cream recipes.
Excess mint can be frozen alone or in ice cube trays.
It can also be dried and stored in an airtight container for future use. The stems are fine to use, but I dry the plant and then strip the leaves off, storing only the dried leaves. You can crumble them up or not, depending on how you plan to use them.
Because mint grows SO well, don’t plan on storing more than you’ll need over the winter. The plant is practically indestructible and you will have more than you know what to do with in the spring.