Mint, or Minta Spacata, is an herb that is used in summer dishes from lamb to iced tea and even as a garnish on pies. The cool flavor is a welcomed and refreshing relief on hot sultry days. It grows wild near cool running ravines and streams. Common varieties are spearmint and peppermint.
Mint is an invasive plant that can quickly take over a garden. One way to reduce spreading is to plant it in a clay pot, then sink that pot into your herb garden. However, that requires monthly monitoring, especially in the summer, to make sure the roots do not creep out of the pot into the loose soil. Mint loves some shade, but if it gets too much it can become leggy with fewer leaves. Transplant a runner in the early spring after the last frost. Be sure that it gets good air flow from the soil. If the soil seems heavy, mix in some pea gravel, bark chips, or coir.
Keep it well irrigated and well weeded. Some people plant mint as a ground cover under the water spigot. Once it flowers, the growing season is over. It is supposed to die down in the winter but should return in the spring.
You can also grow mint fairly easily indoors or bring it inside for the winter months. Plant the runner in a 10 inch pot with good compost. Keep it trimmed to 6 inches in height so it will bush rather than sprawl. But don’t cut it too much or it may thwart its growth cycle through the year.
Mint is susceptible to rust spots, an orangey growth that can invade its leaves. If you see any, be sure to cut away those leaves so the whole plant does not become infected. Bugs also love mint as much as humans.
Mint Nutritional Content
100 grams of mint has:
Protein 4.8 g
Fat .06 g
Fiber 2 g
Calcium 200 mg
Iron 15.6 mg
Vitamin C 27 mg
Carbohydrates 5.8 mg
Mint contains good amounts of Vitamin A, C, B12, folic acid, thiamine and riboflavin, as well as, minerals such as, calcium, copper, fluoride, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc.
Mint Health Benefits
Mint brewed in tea or hot water has been a remedy for digestive problems and stomach cramps for centuries. Of course it is a natural breath freshener. It is also a natural diuretic and has been used to relieve IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and colitis. The oil may reduce and relieve the pain of hemorrhoids.
Its main oil contains menthol which is excellent for the sinuses when inhaled. The oil may also be used as a muscle rub. It is found in many over the counter products from antiseptics to sun burn relief to cough drops and nasal sprays.
Herbalists believe inhaling mint oil incense helps open the mind and calms the nerves. It has some antioxidant properties and can be used as an anti-itch relief for bug bites or other skin irritations.
Some believe that, due to its fluoride content, crushed dried mint leaves can whiten the teeth and remove tough organic stains like wine and coffee.
Ways to Prepare Mint
Mint can be served as a fresh garnish or dried and crumbled into soups, especially cold summer ones. Toss it in summer fruit for a fresh flavor enhancer. Brew it in teas and even fresh squeezed citrus drinks.
Ancient cultures of Greece and Rome hung dried mint as natural air fresheners in their temples. It can be boiled as a potpourri.
Mint Cautions or Concerns
If you are allergic to oregano or basil, you may be allergic to mint. Though often used to relieve heartburn, in a few percentage of adults it may actually worsen heartburn symptoms.