Mint – aromatic and attractive

Some of the more popular mints and easiest-to-locate by mail order or at local garden centers include:

  • apple mint
  • chocolate mint
  • Corsican mint
  • ginger mint
  • various citrus mints, including grapefruit, lemon and lime
  • orange mint, also called bergamot mint and eau de cologne mint
  • pennyroyal
  • peppermint
  • pineapple mint
  • spearmint

This list does not include certain trademarked varieties such as Berries and Cream Mint, Margarita Mint and Oregano-Thyme Mint from Richter’s in Canada

Berries & Cream Mint

There is a wide assortment of mint, Mentha, species, with many sub-species of some of those. For instance, amongst the spearmint group there is curly mint, Scotch mint, English mint, and Kentucky Colonel mint – bringing to mind a refreshing mint julep – as well as others.

Kentucky Colonel Spearmint

Chocolate mint is a type of peppermint with a distinctive “peppermint patty” fragrance. Corsican mint is a low-growing ground cover with delicate round leaves; it is not as hardy as some mints and doesn’t like to get dry.

Corsican Mint, a dainty sprawler

Orange mint is luscious and beautiful, it is easy to see why it is called Eau de Cologne, it is so very fragrant. The flavor is not as sweet as other mints but it does have some culinary use such as in the following recipe for a mint-infused wine inspired by one found in The Herbal Pantry by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead. Of course, I “adjusted” the recipe to please my own palate, which is what I encourage you to do as well. This wine would make for a wonderful picnic libation.

Orange Mint, or Eau de Cologne

White Wine with Orange and Mint

  • 1/4 cup each, water and sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange mint leaves or spearmint leaves
  • 3 strips orange zest
  • 1 bottle (1 fifth) dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 2 tablespoons orange flower water (find in specialty or larger grocery stores)

Combine water and sugar in small saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves, then cool to room temperature. Place the mint and orange zest in a quart-sized glass jar, then pour the sugar syrup over the leaves and stir. Next, add the wine, brandy and orange flower water. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the jar, then put the lit on. Steep in a cool, dark place for 2 or 3 days, then filter the wine into an appropriate decanter – maybe back into the original bottle if you’ve saved it. Chill before serving and garnish with a mint leaf.

Most mints do not breed true from seed and must be propagated by cuttings. Once you grow one or two varieties, you will likely want to grow others. Just don’t grow the different types in the same bed or close together in the field as they will likely cross-pollinate and lose their individuality. Mint makes for a good container plant, and depending on the variety, combine very nicely with certain flowers. It is a good companion plant for members of the cabbage family.

Mint as a companion plant to cabbages

Mint is native to the Near East and the Mediterranean regions. During biblical times, it was used as a tithe and as a medium of exchange. In her fabulous compendium of “old school” herbs, Mrs. M. Grieve notes in A Modern Herbal, “in Athens, where every part of the body was perfumed with a different scent, mint was specially designated to the arms.” The aroma of mint brings up a feeling of brightness and clarity. It was often used as a “strewing herb” over the packed clay floor, during the Middle Ages – in the age before vacuum cleaners, when winter guests may have included the family milk goat and some ducks or a couple of hens. While most of us don’t strew herbs about our homes these days, fresh mint in vases or even bundled and hung to dry lend and atmosphere of cheer and optimism.

Mint hanging to dry

I am so looking forward to spring, and will especially welcome the mints in my own yarden… soon! soon!

a refreshing Mint Julep

©  Doreen Shababy

This article is adapted from the one in my book, The Wild & Weedy Apothecary.