Every season we like to pick one ingredient and find a variety of ways to love it and use it. Rosemary was our ingredient of choice last season, we baked with it, roasted it, drank it, freshened our rooms with it, and turned it into a body scrub.
Get ready for a summer of mojitos, cool mint salads, and refreshing body potions, because mint is our ingredient of the season! We tossed around a few ideas for our summer ingredient (cucumber, tomatoes, cherries, hops (beer-filled summer anyone?)), but decided that it would be fun to roll with the herb theme for another season, and we’re all already going to have a beer-filled summer, so mint it is. Plant your mint this week (tips below), and we promise you a summer of fun, fantastic, and fresh uses for it!
You are probably most familiar with peppermint, which is a sterile hybrid (does not produce seeds) of spearmint and water mint. Of course, when you go to the nursery you’re going to see so many more varieties. There’s chocolate mint, pineapple mint, mojito mint, apple mint, should we go on?
Spearmint, water mint, and peppermint are native to Europe and parts of Asia, but because of their popularity, today you will find these mints and other hybrids growing in Australia, North & South America, and on many island countries. The plants grow well in moist soils and, while they prefer partial shade, they can stand a range of sun exposure from full sun to shade. The plants spread quickly by growing rhizomes, shoots that will grow new shoots and roots from their nodes to produce new plants. Fortunately for us and mint lovers everywhere, the hardy and quickly spreading nature of the plants allows them to thrive in a wide variety of locations. Unfortunately, the species is considered invasive in many of its naturalized zones.
With that in mind, if you want to grow mint this season, we recommend growing it in pots. Beyond its tendency to spread, putting your mint in a pot is great for a few reasons. As we mentioned, the plants like partial shade and plenty of water. If you can put those pots near a hose or water source, that will make your work easier. The pots give you the added freedom to move the plant around until you find the best growing location at your place. I also find potted herbs handy because I can put them on my front or back porches, where they are even closer to my kitchen than they would be if planted in the ground; this is particularly valuable when we have friends over and are making drinks. Furthermore, even if your mint wouldn’t regularly do well on your deck, you can always move it there for the party day if it’s in a pot. Thinking of planting other herbs this season? Check out this post for details on all of our favorite herbs.
In the photo above on the left, you can see my mint immediately after planting. On the right is the same pot overflowing with mint by the end of July! Just like other herbs, you’ll want to pinch off mint flowers as they form, because like other herbs, the chemistry of the plant changes after flowering and it can change the flavor of your leaves.
As a culinary ingredient, Sarah and I are both used to thinking of mint as a flavoring for desserts and drinks. We love our mint chip ice-cream, mint tea, and mojitos, but beyond that, our mint experience is rather limited. As a result, we are excited for a season of experimenting. We have plans to use mint in a savory lamb dish or two. On the lighter side, we can’t wait for more mint in our salads, lettuce wraps, and spring rolls. Beyond the mojito, we’re going to try mixing up our own mint juleps and grasshoppers. And, of course, we’ll also use our mint oil to experiment with potions for the home and body too!
Do you have a favorite use for mint in your house? We would love to hear it!