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gardenmint

My first memories of herbs and plants are as a child, growing up in the suburbs of Galway city. My Dad had a Garden mint that he was always picking and eating from, while telling me at the same time how good it was for your health. I never believed him back then though and honestly, thought he was as daft as a brush; little did I know the effect that mint bush and my daft Daddy would have on my future path. I would often pick off the leaves pretending to make all sorts of concoctions out of it, loving the pungent, menthol smell as I crushed the leaves with a stone.

Our mint bush used to get wildly out of control for a small city garden with my father having to cut it way back to almost nothing. I honestly thought he must have been trying to kill it and that it would never grow back again but lo and behold it did, every single year. I can still get that fabulous fresh mint smell that used to linger in the kitchen after it was cut and all the leaves spread out, covering every counter space to dry. What I did not know then was just how mighty the mint truly is.

There are over 20+ varieties of mint, all with unique menthol tastes and qualities. Spearmint / Mentha spicata or garden mint as it is sometimes known, is considered the oldest of them all. This Daddy of mints, Spearmint, crossed with Water mint to make Peppermint / Mentha piperata, probably the most well-known and used mint of them all.

Spearmint is often overlooked in favour of Peppermint due to its lighter menthol properties making it less pungent, slightly sweeter and a milder digestive. I would consider it the perfect mint of choice for children for this very reason. It is regarded as what herbalists call, a nervine, with properties to both calm and energise the nervous system at the same time.

Peppermint is stronger in flavour than its ancestor and is well known as a digestive aid. It is antispasmodic making it a lovely soothing herb to use for cramps and spasms of the stomach. It has a clean and refreshing taste that nearly everyone would associate with clean breath and a healthy mouth. What is not as well known about peppermint is its pain killing abilities or anodyne properties which makes it a great herb of choice for headaches and toothaches.

When I was first choosing herbs for my Iron Brew blend, I thought of mint initially just to help disguise the taste of the stronger, more earthy herbs such as Dandelion greens and Nettles but after researching it some more I discovered this mighty green was so much more than just a flavouring.

It is a super nutritious herb all on its own. Full of iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, flavonoids, antioxidants, manganese, Vitamins B + C and more. In fact, you would be doing well to find a more delicious, versatile, nutritious, and easy a plant to grow as mint.

When growing mint, you might want to grow in containers if you don’t want it to spread because spread it will. It’s worth keeping all your different varieties separated too or they will cross breed. If you don’t have a garden, you can still grow it in pots, once you throw it some water every now and then, it will grow anywhere, in any size container, it really is not that fussy. I was advised that Spearmint doesn’t grow too well from seed and is better taken from cuttings or split from the root of an established plant. I am currently challenging this theory and have a few seedlings growing away happily on my windowsill (forever the rebel, I will make sure to update this post in a few weeks with my findings).

To harvest the mint plant you can pick the leaves throughout the year as you need them or you can do like my father did and give it a good cut twice a year. It’s best to cut before the mint goes to flower or it will lose some of it’s pungency. The fresh leaves can be stored in the fridge for a few days before they begin to wither or straight into the freezer where they will keep indefinitely. I find freezing is the best and easiest way to store and use mint for personal use.  Mint leaves are easily dried too if kept in a warm, dark, well ventilated area. Spread out on newspaper/ brown paper bags and into the hot press as we used to do. There are many different ways to dry the herbs but a drying rack is one of the most efficient ways as they allow good airflow. A dehydrator works too but the temperature needs to be kept low. What ever you do don’t over complicate it, it is not as hard as you would think. Just make sure the leaves are fully dry and once they are pop them into an airtight container and keep out of direct sunlight where they can keep for over a year. 

No matter which of the mints you choose to grow and use, it is one plant I would encourage everyone to have on hand; Its uses are literally endless. The most obvious of course being mint tea but you can use it when cooking as a seasoning. I know some people love mint mashed in with peas, you can try a few mint leaves mixed into your salad, into a jug of water for flavour, blended in with smoothies for an extra blast of green energy and my absolute most favourite way to use mint is crushed up with some lime, soda water and a splash of rum to make a Mojito. It can be safely added to most things and is a very safe herb to use regularly.

I keep a bottle of essential oil in my medicine cabinet as a disinfectant and use it for steam inhalation when anyone in the house gets a cold. A few drops in your burner / diffuser is a refreshing way to clear your head when you’re stressed or have a lot on your mind. It will improve air quality too and is a natural disinfectant and cooling for the skin so is excellent for use in soaps and washes. For an upset tummy a drop or two diluted in water can work wonders especially for little ones.

Mint, whatever your flavour, is a safe and effective herb to start with especially if you are just starting out on your herb journey. It’s easy to grow, simple to harvest and can be used in so many different ways for various things. If you haven’t already, start introducing it into your daily life and see what new ways you can come up with for using it.

Do you have a favourite variety to grow or a special way you use mint?  Maybe you absolutely cannot stand the smell and taste of it, either way, I would love to hear it. Leave a comment below or if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.

 

 

About

Hi, I’m Róisín Sheridan, founder and creator of HealthTea. My 3 main passions in life are people, nature and health, although not always in that order...

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