Mint is by far one of our favorite summer herbs to grow in the garden, but did you know it’s actually a perennial? That’s right, this fragrant and delicious plant is incredibly hardy and will sprout back up year after year, for endless summers full of exotic dishes, mojitos & mint juleps, salads, and aromatic herbal teas. It’s so easy to plant and it’s a pretty aggressive grower, so if you’re looking for a low-maintenance herb that will flourish in the garden, look no further than mint.
Growing Mint in the Garden
The easiest way to plant mint is with starter plants from a local garden center. Another way is with a cutting from another plant; mint cuttings will develop roots very quickly in either soil or water and because they grow so quickly, a mature plant can be continually divided and replanted. You can technically grow mint from seed, too, but most popular mint plants are actually hybrid versions, so they don’t grow “true to seed.” This means it will produce a plant slightly different from the one it was cultivated from.
This leafy green does best in dappled shade—a partially sunny area with a little shade, perhaps under a canopy of tree foliage. Well-draining soil is a must, so if you have a raised garden bed, that will be perfect. If not, just make sure there’s a good amount of loam or loose organic material to help facilitate drainage. Stagnant, waterlogged soil is a recipe for root rot, which can devastate your plant. While it may not appreciate being waterlogged, mint does like to be watered frequently, so dig a little hole in the garden and fill it with water first to test how quickly the water soaks in.
Growing Mint Indoors
Since mint spreads so quickly, some folks are a little hesitant to introduce it into their garden bed for fear of it taking over. Luckily, mint will thrive in containers quite well; you can keep these around the yard, on the patio, or even indoors by a sunny window. Just make sure your containers have some good drainage holes and are nice and wide, but not too deep, because mint roots will start to tangle if there’s an excess of space underneath.
Harvesting Fresh Mint Leaves
Mint can be harvested in one of two ways: you can simply graze on the plant and pick off leaves whenever you need them, or you can cut the plant right off from the stem, leaving a 2-inch stalk behind so it can grow back. If you see any flower buds start to appear, nip them out quickly before they open so the plant expends its energy on developing more leaves instead of producing flowers. If you find yourself with more mint leaves than you know what to do with, you can always freeze them or dry them for future use.
Mint Recipes: From Salads to Main Courses to Cocktail Hour
This ultra-versatile herb complements savory and sweet dishes equally well. And it’s not just delicious— it’s super healthy, too! Mint has been shown to help soothe the gut and balance intestinal flora, improve mental clarity, and it does wonders for your cardiovascular health. Here are a few tasty recipes to make good use of your mint plant:
- Watermelon Mint Salad: Toss together some cubed watermelon, crumbled feta, fresh mint leaves, and a drizzle of sweet balsamic reduction for a flavorful summer salad with an incredibly complex, layered flavor. This sweet, salty, tangy combination will have everyone going for second and third helpings. Let it sit an hour before serving so those flavors integrate beautifully.
- Vietnamese Salad Rolls: Steamed rice wrap paper and chilled vermicelli noodles are the base for this popular Vietnamese snack. You can get creative with what you put in them, but traditionally they are stuffed with mint, sliced cucumber, grilled shrimp or tofu, and a side of peanut sauce.
- Lamb with Garlic Mint Yoghurt: Mint jelly has been a long-time companion for roasted lamb, but a garlic-mint yogurt sauce brings a zesty Mediterranean twist to this classic pairing. All you need is a little yogurt, lemon juice, mint, fresh chopped garlic, and salt, and you’ve got a delicious dipping sauce straight from the island of Santorini!
- Blended Raspberry Mojitos: White rum, ice, raspberries, mint, lime juice, and simple syrup in the blender. Need we say more? This frosty patio drink is always a hit at parties.
- Mint Tea: Boil some water, add a big bushel of fresh mint leaves, and let it steep until it’s nice and strong. It’s that easy! Add a little honey and lemon for a fabulous remedy for sore throats and upset stomachs.
Bauer’s Market & Garden Center has both spearmint and peppermint but also specialty mints, like chocolate, pineapple, orange, and apple, to add another element of flavor in all your summer dishes and drinks!
You’ll never run out of uses for your mint plant, and luckily, you probably won’t run out of leaves to harvest, either. This fast-growing perennial is a sound investment for any gardener who wants a lot of bang for their buck. Try growing some mint in your garden this year, and enjoy the incredible crisp smell that permeates through the air!