Mint: A Versatile Herb With A Storied Background

The flavorful and aromatic perennial groundcover mint grows extremely well in the Coastal Bend. It can actually jump out of your flower bed if you let it. The herb grows by sending out runners that dip to the ground and set roots. In this manner, mint can spread as far as healthy soil and plentiful watering will take it. To contain mint, build a border for the bed 12” high, or occasionally spade the borders.

Mint is one of the most storied and legendary of all herbs. It has been documented as a food and medicine in societies from Ancient Egypt through modern times. It’s even used today on an industrial scale. The herb is excellent for adding flavor to drinks and food, of course. But, it’s also used to make sauces, vinegars, oils and syrups. Mint baths are highly rejuvenating for the body and mind, and the essential oil of mint is a powerful remedy for colds. Applications for this versatile herb are endless, including sprinkling dried mint in cabinets to deter mice, rubbing it on a new beehive to attract bees and planting it close to tender vegetables to repel pests. The list of uses goes on.

Spearmint (Menthe spicata): Spearmint offers the largest leaves and most luxurious growth of all the mints making it best overall. Peppermint (M. piperita): Peppermint grows nearly as well as spearmint but with smaller leaves. The aroma is not quite as powerful as spearmint, though distinct and strong. Apple Mint (M. suaveolens): Apple mint is perhaps the most interesting mint flavor and aroma. Apple mint is not as hardy or fast-growing and has smaller leaves. Red Raripila Spearmint (M. raripila rubra): Large, pointed, dark green leaves with purple stems. Grow slightly upright for a lush mint bed up to 24” tall.

A Need-To-Know Basis

Growing Up

Spacing, 12” to 24”. Height, 12” to 24”. Hardy perennial groundcover. Plant from transplant in full sun in rich, well drained soil. Add several inches compost, plus two cups pastured poultry manure and two cups native wood ash around each plant. Mulch bed with native leaf mulch. Water regularly. Mint performs well even in the heat, but only with plenty of water. Spreads rapidly. Contain mint with edging or a spade.

Profiling

Mint quickly grows into a lush and expanding groundcover. To stimulate growth, harvest a few leaves regularly and remove all flowers (they are edible). Once the mint bed becomes lush, it will suppress weeds and continue to grow taller and thicker. Harvest often by clipping the ends of a few stems; regrows quickly. When the bed is mature, let the gorgeous purple flowers bloom; bees and birds love them. The entire garden will smell of glorious mint.

Local Recs

“Mint is a magical little thing, especially when it comes to cocktails. When you want it to be a giant green flavor, it will. Sometimes though, it lights up flavors you wouldn’t expect in the most subtle way. Mint is magic. My go-to cocktail with the refreshing herb is a South Side, which combines gin, lime juice, simple syrup and mint.”

– Michael Green, The Post at Lamar Park @digitaldarkjedi

Fun Facts

We used mint to wean our daughters off soft drinks. When the girls wanted a sweet drink, instead of opening a soda, we had them go outside to pick their own mint from the garden. With plenty of varieties growing, they could take their time smelling and tasting each one. Meanwhile, we boiled water with green tea leaves. The girls steeped their chosen mint in a glass of green tea with honey and forgot all about Cokes! They still love their mint tea.