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Ancient Greeks and Romans drank waters steeped in mint, and used the stimulating herb in their bath waters too. In the Middle Ages, the herb was used medicinally and helped with everything from digestive ailments and bad breath to purifying drinking water on long ocean journeys. These days, mint is enjoyed in everything from iced teas and fruit salads to mint sauces for lamb and mixed drinks like mojitos.
Mint is quite easy to grow. In fact, that’s the main problem. This plant can really take over your garden, if you let it. In fact, I inherited a spearmint plant in my last garden. Unfortunately, the mint was planted in the ground, and had spread considerably. Please don’t make this mistake yourself!
Always plant mint in a container, because the plant’s underground root runners spread quickly. That’s what I’m doing with this ‘Mint the Best,’ which is actually a type of spearmint with smaller leaves and sweet flavor.
A long, shallow bowl is usually best for mint gardens. Mint grows best in moist, well-drained soil in partial sun or full sun in cooler areas. Every year or so, you’ll probably need to divide and replant your container mints, since the plants grow so quickly. Give a few starts to friends—along with pots, of course, so they get the hint.
There are many different mints to try, but here are six of my favorites to try in the kitchen:
Chocolate Mint (Mentha x piperita 'Chocolate') adds subtle chocolate taste to hot drinks and desserts. Infuse the mint leaves gently in melted butter for 30 minutes. Strain leaves, and use butter for baking cookies and brownies. Zones 5 to 9.
Mojito Mint (Mentha x villosa) is the authentic mint for lovers of Cuba’s mojito drink. Aficionados say only this mint will give you the true taste of this popular cocktail. Mojito mint has a distinctively different warm scent and flavor than other mints. Zones 5 to 9.
Orange Mint (Mentha piperita ‘Citrata’) has pretty round to oval leaves, and a pleasant citrus smell. This mint would make a delicious orange mint jelly. Try a few leaves stepped with a fruit tea. Zones 4 to 11.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is a popular mint that is often used in mouthwashes and toothpaste. But I love my peppermint sprigs in a pot of hot tea with honey. Zones 3 to 8
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is the preferred mint for cooking. I like spearmint leaves scattered across my fruit salads, and a handful or more with mixed greens. Zones 5 to 10.
Whatever kind of mint you enjoy in the garden, experiment a little in the kitchen. You’ll be surprised how versatile this deliciously cooling herb is in different recipes.
Just be sure to plant that mint in a container ... You can thank me later.