It spreads rapidly and can take over a garden. It’s been used by humans for thousands of years. If you are curious about this herb with medicinal qualities, here’s how to grow and cook with mint.
Fragrant mint reaches toward the sky when it grows, a stalk of taut leaves and refreshing aroma. Brilliantly green, it’s pretty in appearance and smell. Perhaps that’s why I love to grow it.
Or maybe because it’s something that always grew in the gardens of my childhood. Spearmint, for slipping into tall glasses of iced tea.
Mint, the plant, has been used by humans for thousands of years.
It’s mentioned in the Bible and is a part of a Greek myth. Minthe was a wood nymph who Hades, god of the underwood, fell in love with. Enraged, his wife Persephone transformed Minthe into a plant so they couldn’t be together. And Hades, unable to reverse the curse, made her smell so good so that she would get noticed for her beauty.
Today, we find mint in toothpaste, hard candies, gum, ice cream, frosting and so much more. It’s an extract on the shelf at the store and a syrup used in Starbucks drinks in the wintertime. The refreshing flavor is used both to refresh breath and add flavor to foods.
Believed to have medicinal qualities, mint has been used to treat digestion issues and can help open the lungs during an asthmatic episode, though it is no replacement for proper medicine and medical care.
Interested in growing and/or cooking with mint? Here’s what you need to know.
How to grow mint
Mint is a plant known for growing with abundance — the kind of abundance that spreads wildly. Though it’s not technically an invasive species, it will grow well beyond your intended planting area. For this reason, it’s advisable to plant mint, a perennial, in a place where you don’t mind it spreading.
When I last grew mint, I planted it at the edge of our lawn in an area that I had previously used for growing vegetables. It spread predictably well — but that’s what I wanted it to do.
You can purchase mint plants at some garden centers or grow it from seed. Follow the directions on the seed packet for proper planting depth. Not unlike other plants, mint comes in several varieties including peppermint, spearmint and chocolate mint. Those are the ones I can find locally, but there are so many more like pineapple mint, woolly mint and pennyroyal.
Aside from sunlight and watering, mint doesn’t take much tending. It’s a hardy plant perfect for the hands-off gardener.
How to cook with mint
Growing up, my grandmother would send me to the garden for some fresh mint to tear and toss into our iced tea (Liptons, powder, always). So I love a bit of fresh mint in my tea. It’s also delicious in tea, lemonade and Mint Juleps.
Beyond drinks, this refreshing herb can be used in salads, Thai dishes and more. It can be used in sauces as well such as mint sauce or pesto.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of four cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to a tween and a teen, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.