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.
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