Words & Photos Kristina Jensen
I’m a huge fan of mint, whether it be for tea, pesto, adding to salads and coleslaws, dressings, as an ingredient for my popular apple mint jelly or just eating straight from the plant when I’m pottering in the garden. The refreshing taste hits the spot every time, and in fact, there is much more to this pick-me-up than meets the eye (see the many uses below). There are also many different types of mint, each with its own unique flavour and scent – on one website, I found a list of more than 55 different types of mint! My current favourites are peppermint, liquorice mint, chocolate mint and lemon balm.
Fortunately, mint is one of the easiest plants to grow... but it also is one of the most aggressive stolons (creeping horizontal plant with runners) in the plant kingdom. Mint can grow under weed mat for 20m, popping up on the other side quite happily, so even though it’s an amazing culinary and healing plant to have around, it can also be rather invasive, so you have to keep an eye on it.
Mint plants give the best flavour and fragrance from new growth, so if you want to maximise your crop, take cuttings in all year round and you’ll have a steady supply of young mint plants for the picking. Mint is an ideal candidate for container planting: however, the roots will quickly grow out the bottom of the pot if it is in contact with the ground so it’s best to keep your mint pot on a deck or patio if you don’t want it to spread.
Use your mint today!
• As a garnish for steamed vegetables.
• Add a few leaves to your favourite smoothie.
• Add to home-made salad dressings and mayonnaise.
• An infusion of mint leaves is a great soothing skin cleanser for acne.
• If you get a nasty sting or insect bite and you are close to a mint bush, vigorously rub or chew up a leaf, then place the juice onto the affected
area – you will find the cooling sensation of the mint will instantly help to relieve the itching and burning.
• Mint juice can be applied to burns.
• Chewing one or two fresh mint leaves every day can help with bad breath.
• If you’re feeling down or exhausted, chew a few mint leaves with a dab of manuka honey – mint is a natural stimulant and the smell alone can often be enough to recharge your batteries (this is also a great ‘lolly’ substitute for kids!).
• Mint is a great palate cleanser and it promotes digestion.
• A cup of peppermint tea helps with nausea, indigestion and motion sickness.
• Mint is a naturally soothing substance, so it is good for relieving the irritation caused by chronic coughing
Tips for growing mint
• Different mint types should be planted as far apart as possible. True mint varieties are known to cross-pollinate with each other when planted close together. You can end up with characteristics from different mints appearing in one plant, leading to unfavourable scents or flavours.
• Mint likes full sun and lots of water. Grown in the shade, it will be floppy and the flavour will not be as strong as when you grow it in the sun.
• People often just pick the tips from a mint plant, but if you want lots of mint, you should cut
the stalk all the way down to the ground to stimulate new growth.
• You may notice brown spots on your mint: this is mint rust, a fungus which only infects plants in the mint family. It tends to occur when mint is receiving moisture from above so the solution is to only water around the base of the plant, and place it in a sunny, open position
Propagating mint from cuttings
Take 8cm cuttings from the top growth of a mint plant. Remove the lower leaves and cut the stem just below the leaf node. Trim the top growth from the stems as this reduces the surface area from which the plants can lose water.
Place the stems in a glass of water. Leave in a light, airy place until the stems have taken root (usually within a couple of weeks).
Once a good root system has developed, pot the stems up in a container with good quality potting mix. Water well. Keep the
pots in a bright location, but not with direct sunlight. When the plants have become established, transplant them into their final growing positions.
Growing mint from runners
Simply take a length of mint runner and lay it into a trench in the ground, cover with earth, water and wait. If you think birds might scratch it up, place a rock on each end of the runner to hold it down.