Mint is both common and more complicated than we think. The plant is extremely hardy; a single clipping can be sprouted in a small amount of water or planted directly in soil and will grow large enough to take over entire beds. It reproduces and spreads so readily in fact, that in some areas it is considered an invasive species.
Like basil, the mint flavor comes from oil contained in the leaves. Roll, bruise lightly and slice the same way. It is also commonly used for its medicinal properties, calming stomach cramps and symptoms of respiratory illness in hot teas. It can even sooth topical burns in a cooled tea form.
Did You Know?
For thousands of years mint has been a symbol of hospitality, used to clear the air in temples and homes, rubbed on tables to welcome visitors in Greece and served as tea to welcome guests in the Middle East. There are over 600 varieties, including the common peppermint and spearmint. Less common are lemon, apple, pineapple, orange, water, horse (I don’t think I want to taste that one) and even chocolate mint. Pennyroyal mint is toxic to both humans and pets and should never be ingested.
Know to Grow
Key to growing happy mint is the choice of container: it spreads through runners – laterally-growing roots that “run” along the ground. It isn’t a vine, so it won’t crawl up, but it will spread out in a wide formation if allowed. Those runners will put down roots of their own and send up more delicious, mint-y growth for you to enjoy, so choose a container that is more wide than deep to give it room to spread and avoid bound roots. As with other herbs, new growth will emerge from the leaf nodes just below a cut stem, so harvest strategically, leaving one or two sets of leaves below the cut. Your plant will thank you with healthy, lush growth.
Mint likes to stay moist, but not damp, so plant in well-drained soil and water more frequently than other herbs like cilantro and chives. Flowering signals the end of the life cycle. Pinching off flowers will extend the life of your plant. It loves bright light, so grow outside in bright, direct light. Indoors, keep it happy with ten hours of high quality light. Don’t let it get too close to the window or grow light bulb, as it can easily scorch. Opt for cool-to-the-touch LED grow lights, like VividGro‘s GroBar, to avoid heat and scorching altogether.
Like this article? Find more in our Top Herbs series at https://vividgro.com/lab/