The Kentucky Derby is on May 2 this year, so what better herb to honor than mint? From mint juleps to lamb dishes and tabouleh (to name a few), mint can be used in so many ways and makes a wonderful addition to any container garden (yes, container garden!). The brave at heart (or those with an area they would like to cover) can plant it in the ground, but beware as it can be invasive! Aside from it’s culinary uses, mint can also be used to attract beneficial insects to your yard. Friendly critters like bees, pollinators and earthworms (to name a few) will benefit from this addition to your garden, as will you!
Mints like morning to afternoon sun, but avoid the late, hot afternoon sun. Keep the soil moist. Best used in containers, as it can become very invasive. There are many varieties to choose from, but here we will focus on the most common mints: spearmint, peppermint and pennyroyal.Popular Varieties & Their Uses
Spearmint (mentha spicata) This mint is often thought of for mint jellies and vinegars. It is widely used with lamb dishes, peas and potatoes and is a favorite in many assorted drinks, teas and as a garnish in fruit dishes. It has two to three foot spikes topped with pale lilac flowers. It is very useful to deter mice, as they are repelled by the aroma. Also used is sachets and potpourri.
Peppermint (mentha piperita) Everyone loves mint chocolate chip ice cream, but peppermint is also used in teas, chocolates, cakes and tea. To make tea, take one to two teaspoons of dried leaves per cup of boiling water. Steep for ten minutes and discard leaves. The dried leaves are used in sachets and potpourri. It has pink flowers in the fall and is also a deterrent to mice.
Pennyroyal (mentha pulegium) is toxic so should never be taken internally! It should be used for its fragrance or as a ground cover, but not where dogs or cats might mistake it for food. It can be used as a mosquito repellent simply by rubbing the leaves on your skin. Although, it is best to try a small patch of skin first, because it might irritate sensitive skin.
Just for Fun
– The Mint Julep has been the official drink of the Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century. As a matter of fact, over 1,000 pounds of mint springs are used for this occasion!
– Mints are native to the Mediterranean area, introduced toBritainby the Romans and brought toAmericaby the pilgrims.
– During the 14th century, mint was used for whitening teeth and to this day it is still used to flavor toothpaste.
– Mint is used in soaps and to scent bath water, as it is thought to have a calming effect.
Mint Julep Recipe
2 C sugar
2 C water
Silver Julep Cups
Combine water and sugar and boil for five minutes. Cool and add six to eight sprigs of fresh mint, put in a covered container and refrigerate for twelve to eighteen hours. Take a silver julep cup and fill it with crushed ice. Add one teaspoon of mint syrup and two ounces of whiskey. Stir to frost the cup. Add a sprig of fresh mint and enjoy!
Happy Herb Gardening!
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