Saturday Spotlight – ‘Mint’ or ‘Common Mint’

I grow a lot of mints: Spearmint, Peppermint, Vietnamese Mint (which isn’t a true mint), Basil Mint, Chocolate Mint and so on but the mint I like best, the one I use most is usually sold under the imaginative name: ‘Mint’.  (Or very occasionally ‘Common Mint’ or ‘Culinary Mint’).  In the first (or perhaps second) season of the Australian version of Masterchef contestants were asked to name that herb.  Mint came up and one contestant over-thought it and wrote ‘spearmint’.  She went home as the answer was judged incorrect.  The mint used most commonly for culinary purposes here always seems to go under the label ‘mint’.  Since that episode I have looked at the mint in every nursery I go to and every single one always has a mint simply called ‘mint’.  I actually think it probably is some sort of Mentha Spicata (spearmint) cultivar but unfortunately I can’t be more precise than that.  Incidentally I also grow a mint that I bought labelled ‘spearmint’ and although it tastes pretty similar to ‘mint’ it isn’t as vigorous and its leaves a significantly smaller and pointier.  This is what my ‘mint’ looks like:


I use a lot of mint in both food and drinks and as a result I grow a fair bit of the stuff.  Mint grows year round in Melbourne, although it does slow significantly over winter and can get a bit dry and unhappy during the height of summer.  I grows well in semi shade – a few hours sun a day and can be grown, albeit a lot less vigorously, in pretty much full shade.   I usually have two big pots of mint growing at any one time.  I harvest from one and let the other grow on.  Having two pots lets me stagger dividing the plants.  I try to divide my mint in Spring and Autumn and whenever the new leaves are particularly small.  I find that mint tends to produce large leaves during vigorous growth and smaller leaves when it is growing less vigorously.  Production of smaller leaves tends to mean that the plant is getting low on food and root space in the pot, although the plants do also seem to naturally produce smaller leaves in cooler weather.

For a post on how to divide mint click here.

Mint grows really easily from root cuttings and as a result it is hard to get rid of if you plant it directly in the ground.   Unless you have an area you really want to fill with an easy edible green (I have one such area under some eucalypts and in shade much of the day) it is probably best confined to pots.


I find mint is at its most vigorous in spring and so is best propagated then, although you can grow it any time in Melbourne.  Propagation can be from division, root and/or shoot cuttings, or from seed.  I’ve tried all three.  Generally I think that if want to grow mint and don’t yet have a plant then the easiest way to get one is either ask a friend with one for a piece to propagate from or to buy a small potted plant.  Once you have one plant you can easily propagate more from cuttings and division and as a result buying a packet of seed seems like a bit of waste.

I use my mint in salads (particularly Middle Eastern and South-East Asian ones), dips, drinks, marinades and even in cooked dishes.  Aside parsley it is the herb I use, and enjoy, most.

Cucumber, Feta, Mint & Pomegranate Salad

Do you grow mint?  Which types do you grow?

Saturday Spotlight is a series of posts highlighting particular varieties of edible plants.  If you have a favourite, or even a less than successful variety of a plant and would like to include it in the series then please leave a comment with a link below.    I have created a page (above, just below the header) with an Index of all the Spotlights to date.   I will add links to any new posts below and in next weeks post as well as ensuring they appear in the Index.  

New Spotlights last week were:

Purple Cauliflower – Garden Glut

Sabah Honey Pineapple – Kebun Malay-Kadazan Girls

Fiesta Broccoli – Daphne’s Dandelions

Profuma Di Genova Basil – From Seed to Table

and from this week:

Florence Fennel – Garden Glut

Turmeric – City Garden Country Garden

Kossak Kohlrabi – Our Happy Acres

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22 Responses to Saturday Spotlight – ‘Mint’ or ‘Common Mint’

  1. I grow what I think is Common Mint and also spearmint. They taste quite different. The spearmint actually tastes just like spearmint lollies! I find mint really frustrating to grow, one minute it’s thriving and then the next it’s almost disappeared, or been eaten by something but I like your idea of growing two pots at once.

    Thanks again for hosting this series. I’ve just done a Saturday Spotlight on Turmeric, that I planted after being inspired by yours last year!

    • Liz says:

      You are right about the spearmint tasting like spearmint lollies. I reckon Chocolate mint tastes a bit like after dinner mints too.

  2. We’ve just planted Spearmint, apple mint, black mint and red mint in a large tub and also have a variegated type. The mint bed on the plot needs some sorting.

    Martyn picked lots and made a batch of mint sauce yesterday to preserve it through winter.

  3. Dave says:

    There are so many good mints to choose from. I have several spearmints and peppermints, plus chocolate mint, orange mint and a Vietnamese mint that is a true mint, sort of a spearmint/peppermint cross. When we bought our place, there was some mint growing in the ground here, likely an English mint type, that I dug up and potted. I call it Happy Acres mint! Of course I didn’t manage to dig it all up so it still grows merrily in an area that gets part sun and part shade.

    I did a spotlight this week on kohlrabi. Thanks again for hosting this series. I have really enjoying reading about all these varieties, and now have long list of things I want to try growing!

    • Liz says:

      I like the sound of orange mint. Does it taste of orange? I suspect your Vietnamese mint is called something else here – perhaps even ‘Common Mint’. The one we call Vietnamese Mint is known as Vietnamese cilantro elsewhere (not sure why as it isn’t much like coriander either).

  4. Michelle says:

    I’ve got 2 varieties of mint growing, Persian and Vietnamese. The Persian is a spearmint type with narrow fine leaves and a sweet flavor and fine texture, it’s my favorite. The Vietnamese mint might be the same as Dave’s, it’s a bit larger and more coarse both in texture and flavor than the Persian, a bit too strong for my taste to use fresh but I like to cook with it. And then there’s some escapee from a previous gardener that I keep trying to get rid of from my “orchard”, one of those fuzzy leafed fruity things. I also have what you call Vietnamese mint which I call Vietnamese cilantro which is actually neither mint nor cilantro – Persicaria odorata.

    • Liz says:

      I’m wondering if the one you call Vietnamese mint is like our ‘common mint’. The Vietnamese restaurants here tend to use it in their salads etc (given that why we call ‘Vietnamese cilantro’ Vietnamese mint remains something of a mystery).

  5. Roger Brook says:

    Your mint looks a bit like apple mint – but not quite. I wonder what it is.
    Mint sauce is very popular over here. The family have eaten some lovely lamb today and added fresh mint sauce. Personally I prefer to taste the meat and not mint!

  6. Peter Wylaars says:

    I am in Gembrook in Victoria and grow Basil mint and I have a love challenge with it in that it is the most versatile green herb I grow next to Parsley.
    I do not know why it is not grown more widely in place of the annual Basil.
    The ground where it grows is quite rich and the original plant has travelled about 3 metres from where it was originally planted 20 years ago and never fed.
    This is one of the challenging parts as early on in growing this mint I regarded it as bordering on being an environmental weed but lately it has slowed its rate of travel.
    I have come to the conclusion that this mint likes to search for nutrients, hence the tavelling.
    It has had some quite severe frosts this year and yet the leaves are pickable and vary in size from 10mm up to the size of a fifty cent coin-all nutrient dependant.
    I use it in cooking when I want the Italian or Greek taste and have made pesto from it which is quite powerfull.
    All in all a top herb.

    • Liz says:

      I have some basil mint but haven’t made good use of it yet so really appreciate your comment. I’ve used it a couple of times but used too much and as a result it over powered the remaining flavours in the salads. I can see that I will have to try it in some cooked dishes.

  7. Sarah says:

    I have lots of applemint – for using in the kitchen and with cutflowers. And then some Moroccan mint, which is supposed to be the best for mint tea, chocolate mint – just because it smells and tastes so good, and a pot of Florence mint that has a really fresh minty fragrance and good flavour. Your salad looks good – is that thinly sliced cucumber or courgette through it?

  8. Andrea says:

    I too grow the “common” mint and love the fact it always has leaves to pick when needed even if only a few during its slow season.
    Torn and sprinkled over greek yogurt and spicy lamb strips ………my favorite !

  9. Lrong says:

    We have several types of mint growing here in our garden in Japan… of these, our favorite is the black mint, which we use for teas… love their taste very much…

    • Liz says:

      I will have a do a quick google of black mint to see if it is something I am unfamiliar with or simply another name for one of the varieties I grow.

  10. I’m not a huge mint fan but I do value it in the garden as I invariably need it if I don’t have any. I only have the common mint (what I call Nana’s mint – partly cause it is a name I heard used when referring to the common mint years ago and partly cause my plant came for an old plant of my grandmother’s) but I think I will replant Vietnamese mint now I have a dedicated pot where it can go. I find the Vietnamese mint useful in summer salads.

  11. Balvinder says:

    I, too like to add mint to my salads in summer and also to dips and chutneys. I grow two types of mint, not sure of their names but I can tell from the smell which is good for a chutney to go with Indian meal.

  12. I’m with you on both mint and parsley, I can’t seem to grow enough! My latest favorite is one I just picked up, called ginger mint — fragrant and spicy!

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