Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Herb of the Week - A variety of Mints

Recently at the Plant Sale I was asked about other mints to grow besides the Pineapple Mint we had at the sale. Now I tend to stick to the traditional for my herb garden where I mostly grow what they call true mints -- spearmint and peppermint.  But there are many other options as well.  The hybrid exotics, give one many choices, from Chocolate Mint, to Apple Mint to Ginger Mint.  Here is a run through of some of the exotic mints you might want to try in your garden and why.

Chocolate Mint
If you enjoy the taste combination of crisp mint and rich chocolate, you'll love chocolate mint (Mentha piperita). Closely related to spearmint, chocolate mint stands out from the crowd due to its purple stem and indulgent cocoa scent and taste -- without the calories. Chocolate mint can be used fresh or dried and makes a great addition to teas, baked goods, fresh fruit, and ice cream.  Besides it’s chocolate – what’s not to like.

Ginger Mint
Mentha gentilis, also known as ginger mint, is an easy to grow herb with a spearmint-like scent. The herb's leaves are veined yellow and can be dried or used fresh to add flavor to fruit salads, teas, and marinades.  Visually different from most mints it is a nice addition to the landscape.

Ginger mint is believed to have antiseptic properties and is used to help relieve tummy troubles. In addition, the herb is used commercially to repel rats and other rodents.

Apple Mint
Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) is a lovely, aromatic plant that can rapidly become obnoxious if not contained. When kept confined, this is a beautiful herb with many fantastic culinary, medicinal and decorative properties. Since apple mint can be invasive, it is wise to consider confining the plants to a container. You can put the plant in a container and then bury the container.

Consider planting apple mint alongside cabbage, peas, tomatoes and broccoli to improve their flavor. Use fresh leaves as a pretty and fragrant dessert topping, as salad additions – especially fruit salad, or to make tasty apple mint dressing. The fresh or dried leaves can be used in both hot and iced teas.

Water mint
This strongly scented herb (Mentha aquatica) smells similar to peppermint and requires high moisture to thrive. If you have an area prone to flooding and a place that stays damp this is the perfect plant for that spot and water mint is known for its pretty, sphere-shaped lavender flowers so you get a real treat for the eyes.  However, it's the leaves that hold the herb's medicinal and culinary benefits.

Water mint can be dried for use in teas to treat digestive problems, fevers, or headache and is also used as a sore throat and mouth gargle. The herb can also be used fresh in salads and other culinary dishes.

Corsican Mint
Corsican mint (Mentha requienii) grows as a beautiful bright green, moss-like, ground cover with tiny light purple flowers. The herb prefers moist soil and shady areas. Its small leaves and low habit make it perfect as part of a fairy garden.

Corsican mint has an especially strong scent and taste and is known for its use in creme de menthe and other liqueurs. In addition, Corsican mint tea made from dried leaves is sometimes used to treat digestive illness, headaches, and fever.

Remember that mint are perennials and that they will grow prolifically as they reproduce by seed, runner and root multiplication,

Please keep in mind that while mint is generally considered safe to use, large quantities of any variety may be toxic. It's critical to consult your doctor before using mint or any other herb as an herbal remedy, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

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