Grow Your Own

Mint

Mint is a perennial herb grown for its leaves. They are wonderful infused in hot water to make a refreshing tea, chopped and added to many dishes, or used to make mint sauce (a classic addition to roast lamb).
There are many different varieties of mint to choose from with leaves that smell completely different. Not all are good for culinary use, so choose what you grow carefully.

Mint

Grow

Give plants plenty of water, especially during hot, dry weather.

When plants have finished flowering in summer, cut flowered shoots back to 5cm (2in) above the surface of the compost.

Avoid growing different varieties of mint close together, whether in pots or the ground, as they can lose their individual scent and flavour.

When growing in pots, rejuvenate congested clumps by upturning the container, removing the rootball and splitting it in half. Repot a portion in the same container using fresh compost.

Plant

It is best to buy mint as young plants in spring. Mint is a vigorous plant that will spread all over the place if planted straight into the ground. This is why it is a good idea to plant it in a large pot filled with multi-purpose compost that can be placed in a prominent place to make picking easy.

Alternatively grow in a large, bottomless bucket and plunge it into a gap in the soil, making sure the lip of the container remains above the surface to prevent shoots from escaping over the top.

Common problems

Rust

Rust: A common fungal disease of many plants that can be recognised by orange, yellow or black spots or blisters that form on leaves, along with pale and distorted stems. Leaves can fall and in severe cases, plants will eventually die.

Remedy: Dig up badly infected plants and dispose of to prevent the spores spreading to other plants. Carefully check plants before buying to ensure they are healthy and show no signs of disease.

More info on Rust

Mint beetle

Mint beetle: Shiny green beetles and their round black larvae feed on the foliage of mint plants in summer. Large populations can severely damage plants.

Remedy:

Their size and colour make both adult beetles and their larvae easy to spot and remove by hand.

More info on Mint beetle

Harvesting

Mint dies back over winter, but can be picked between late spring and mid-autumn. Pick regularly to keep plants compact and to ensure lots of new shoots.

It is best used fresh, but you can preserve leaves for using over winter. Pick shoots, wash well, shake dry then chop into small pieces and add to an ice cube mould. Fill with water and freeze. Whenever you need some mint for a recipe, simply knock out as many ice cube as you need and add to the pan.

Varieties

Apple mint:

Mentha suaveolens - apple mint has oval shaped leaves and mauve flowers that appear in summer.

Tashkent mint:

Mentha spicata ‘Tashkent’ is a robust plant with a strong taste and heavily-textured leaves.

Ginger mint:

Mentha × gracilis - ginger mint - has oval leaves with a spicy mint scent.

Chocolate mint:

Mentha × piperata f. citrata ‘Chocolate’ has dark brown leaves that taste like chocolate creams.


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