Mint is a must-have in the kitchen garden and such a versatile herb for culinary use. There are now many different varieties available, including chocolate mint and orange mint flavours. Plant in well-drained alkaline soil in partial shade or full sun and grow varieties separately rather than mixing in. Mint looks pretty in a border, in tubs or windowboxes, and planted in with other herbs. It is an invasive plant that grows vigorously though so needs to be planted in a container to restrict root spread. It’s also a good idea to prune mint plants regularly too. Divide potted plants in autumn to increase stock or alternatively take cuttings in spring. Here are some lovely ideas for using mint in the kitchen… Mint salt makes a great rub for fish or meat – mix chopped mint leaves with sea salt flakes. Add whole mint leaves to hot roasted pork or lamb sandwiches. Lightly bruise some mint leaves in a pestle and mortar and add to elderflower champagne or cordial. Or add a handful of mint leaves to a long cool gin and lemonade.Mint pesto is so easy to do and works well with grilled fish, roast chicken and in sandwiches with meat left over from the roast: Blitz 80g pine nuts with one small finely chopped shallot, a handful of mint leaves, 2 tsps white wine vinegar and the zest of one lemon, then season.
From about 25 species in the genus, hundreds of new and exciting varieties of mint have been cultivated for the food and cosmetic industries and the kitchen . The fragrant var. Moroccan, shown here, is the leaf of choice for mint tea.
Add fragrance to your garden MenthagardenMentha spicatacrispa
Today, you can grow apple, pineapple, grapefruit, even chocolate mint, making it one of the most exciting and versatile herbs for culinary use. Shown here (clockwise from top left) are sprigs of black peppermint; chocolate mint; Moroccan mint; and orange mint (M. x piperita f. citrata Orange), which adds a citrus note to salads.
Plant in well-drained alkaline soil in partial shade or full sun if variegated and grow varieties separately to maintain their unique flavour and fragrances. Some mints can be very invasive so check vigorous growth and tendency to spread by planting in pots to restrict root spread, or pulling off runners. Make sure to divide potted plants in autumn to avoid root strangulation and to increase stocks or, alternatively, propagate by taking fresh leaf basal cuttings (strong shoots near the base) in spring, place in water and wait for roots grow before potting up and planting out.
Mint tea can be drunk hot or cooled down and served with ice. Jekka McVicar of Jekka's Herb Farm advises, 'My favourite mint is Mentha longifolia subsp. schimperi (Eastern mint) because it makes the best cup of peppermint tea and looks graceful in the garden. The plant originates from Morocco, so plant it in a hot, dry position.'
Some mint varieties, including pennyroyal mint, grow like creepers and can be used as an exotic edible ground cover in the garden.
A combination of white roses and sprigs of flowering lavender mint makes an attractive and beautifully fragrant display.
Black peppermint, shown here, is one of the favourite mint varieties of Cheryl Waller, Council member of The Herb Society; 'I would recommend two varieties of mint. The unusual Tashkent mint, M. spictata 'Tashkent', a beautiful, fresh and vibrantly green-leaved mint with wonderful curly edges, is great in recipes. Black peppermint is simply the best for drinking as tea.'
Summerdown Mint, 01256 780252, grows 'Black Mitcham' mint, among others, by the acre for use in its award-winning chocolates, peppermint oil and and tea. 'Mentha x piperita, the original English mint, with its characteristic nice rounded flavour, is the most palatable,' say its growers. Shown here is the M. x piperita f. citrata Basil which, with its fragrant flowers, is particularly attractive to bees and butterflies.
Find a large variety of mint plants to buy at these specialist suppliers:
- Arne Herbs is a supplier of fresh medicinal and cooking herbs with more than 30 varieties of mint, 01275 333399.
- Jekka's Herb Farm is a leading organic herb grower with an online catalogue, 01454 418878.
- Laurel Farm Herbs has an extensive mail order herb catalogue, 01728 668223.
- Norfolk Herbs is a grower of naturally-raised culinary, medicinal and aromatic herbs for trade and mail order, 01362 860812.
- Poyntzfield Herbs is a specialist organic herb nursery in Scotland that also runs workshops, 01381 610352.
Find everything you need to know about growing and using mints and other herbs in these books:
- Jekka's Complete Herb Book by Jekka McVicar (Kyle Cathie, 16.99)
- Growing Herbs, Propagation, Harvesting and Making Herb Oils (The Herb Society, £2.50)
- RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Bown (Dorling Kindersley, £30)
- The Ultimate Book of Herbs and Herb Gardening by Jessica Houdret (Lorenz Books)
- Cook, Brew & Blend Your Own Herbs (Neal's Yard Remedies, £16.99)
Shown here, clockwise from top left, are leaves of black peppermint, variegated apple mint, orange mint, Morrocan mint, white peppermint, red mint, garden mint, chocolate mint, and lemon mint in the middle.
Treat the senses with a visit to one of these gardens in which a variety of mints and herbs are cultivated, such as the M. suaveolens Pineapple, shown here, which smells as its name suggests.
- Yorkshire Lavender and Howardian Herbs, 01653648008, is a specialist lavender and herb nursery with the largest collection of herb varieties in the North, plus a sensory garden.
- Sulgrave manor, 01295 760205, is a National Garden of the Herb Society, with 15 to 16 varieties of mint, including medicinal and culinary ornamental mints planted in the borders.