Mint has a long history in cultivation. In Greek mythology, a nymph named after the plant, Menthe or Minthe, is said to have been turned into the herb by Persephone.
In Western cuisine, mint is traditionally used in lamb dishes, beverages, and desserts. Generally, mints are rich in carotenes and vitamin C as well as magnesium, copper, iron, potassium, and calcium.
What herb garden would be complete without mint? Highly aromatic, with uses in the culinary arts, herbal medicine, and crafting, mints are among the easiest herbs to grow. Use in summer drinks and teas, vegetable and fruit salads, or even with meat or savory dishes. Make a fragrant summer wreath or bouquet! Although it is rich in many volatile essential oils, it is menthol that is most recognizable as the “minty” smell. Menthol has antiseptic, decongestant, and analgesic uses.
Mint is a great plant for beginning gardeners and container gardeners. In fact, growing mint in containers is advisable to prevent it from spreading to where it isn’t wanted. On the flip side, mint makes a fast spreading ground cover that combines nicely with trees and shrubs. If placed mindfully among plants of similar vigor, it can be the perfect plant in a mixed border.
In general, mint flowers attract bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects. Specifically, it is one of the insect food plants that supports populations of parasitic wasps. It follows mustard and buckwheat in flowering time, so if you would like parasitic wasps to have food all summer, plant mustards and buckwheat also. Parasitic wasps prey on caterpillar pests. Mints bloom in summer and can be shades of white, pink, or lavender. People interested in these insect pollinators and beneficial insects might alternate years of harvest among plants so that both gardeners and pollinators are both happy!
A variety with leaves that are toothed, wooly, and rounder than those of other mints, apple mint can grow up to three feet high. This also makes it one of the tallest mints to grow. The flavor of apple mint is fruitier and less “minty” than most mints, with distinct apple notes. Its flavor shines brightest when used in fresh preparations like teas, cocktails, and sorbets. However, it can also be used in pickling and making jam. It is less aggressive than other mints but care should still be taken when planting it so it will not colonize where it is unwanted. Often misnamed as Mentha rotundifolia. Large spikes of lavender flowers. USDA zones 5-11.
Delicious bubble gum flavor and aroma! Deep green leaves with a mahogany undertone. ‘Chewing Gum’ mint can be confused with Agastache cana, which is known as ‘Bubblegum’ mint. Plant reaches 10-18 inches tall. We’re not sure how cold hardy it is, but Mentha spicata is hardy in USDA zones 5-11, so it should survive the Pacific NW winters no problem.
A variety of peppermint, chocolate mint possesses a chocolate flavor and odor. It also attracts butterflies and beneficial insects. Grow in good sun to bring out burgundy and green leaf variegation. It is especially useful in dessert recipes such as mousses and custards. Purple tint to underside of leaves. USDA zones 4-11.
A sterile cross between Mentha arvensis and Mentha spicata, this mint has round leaves and can grow in heavy, clay soils, provided there is enough moisture. Also known as Austrian Mint, Red Mint, Scotch spearmint, Red Stemmed mint, and Vietnamese mint. Upright red stems reach 15-24 inches tall. Some varieties can have yellow-variegated leaves. Odor is a mix of apple, ginger, and mint. Deer resistant. On a world scale, this mint is second only to peppermint in popularity. Use in fruit salads, or with melon or tomatoes, for a fresh ginger flavor. Especially good with fruit. USDA zones 5-9.
A variety of spearmint with larger leaves that provide a bigger visual presence in dishes that require mint. Less sweet flavor makes a great alternative for Mint Juleps. Highly praised variety of spearmint. USDA zones 5-9.
A variety of spearmint that has narrow leaves. Essential for Derby day. USDA zones 3-9.
Grows 24″ tall. Distinctive cinnamon and cloves aroma. Dense upright habit. Medium-sized leaves. Grow in full sun and well-drained soil. Pinch off flowers for leaf production.
Sweeter varieties of spearmint that emerges early in the season. Plant has large leaves with purple undersides and dark stems. Despite the sweetness, Moroccan mint works well in savory meat, poultry, and fish dishes.
Large, tender, dark green mentha leaves are very sweet, excellent for pesto and other Italian dishes. Upright, 18-24″ plants are hardier than other menthas.
Strong, “minty” flavor that is sweeter than peppermint. Traditional mint for mint juleps and iced tea and lamb dishes. Spearmint leaves contain protein, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus and zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese. USDA zones 5-11.
Plant reaches up to 20-24 inches tall. Plant has serrated leaves and lilac flowers. Chocolate peppermint aroma with strawberry overtones. Excellent with beverages, salads, desserts, and even soft cheeses. We’re not sure how hardy it is, but peppermint is hardy in USDA zones 5-11.
A cross between Watermint (Mentha aquatic) and Spearmint (Mentha spicata), Peppermint has extremely aromatic, oval-shaped, toothed leaves, with reddish stems and veins. Different cultivars of peppermint can have purple or bronze leaf variegation. Look for the cream-variegated variety ‘Variegata’ to brighten your pots or your herb garden. Peppermint leaves contain substantial amounts of vitamin A, foliates, riboflavin and vitamin K. Peppermint has a high concentration of menthol, which produces the cooling sensation when the leaves are used. In herbal medicine, it is used as an anti-parasitic, anti-viral, an antiseptic. Good for colds and nausea. Commercially, peppermint essential oil is used in toothpaste, chewing gum, candles, and candies. USDA zones 5-11..
A variety of apple mint, pineapple mint also has rounded, furry leaves. However, it is also has cream-colored variegation that distinguishes it from apple mint. Its flavor is tropical, reminiscent of pineapples. Because its flavor is lost with cooking, pineapple mint is best used fresh in cocktails, salads, fruit salads, or frozen desserts. It can also be used to infuse syrups or oils. USDA zones 6-11.
Native plant enthusiasts can look for Mentha arvensis to add to their gardens. In addition to tolerating drier soils, it is said to make a delicious tea!.