How to grow them and why you should
Mint (or Menta) is a plant, with between 13 and 24 species. That seems like a wide range but they easily cross pollenate and they are difficult to distinguish between.
Some of them are more famous than others, for example peppermint and spearmint are now widely recognised mainly because of chewing gum I suppose.
Where are they grown
They are best grown in wet and moist soils, but they are hardy plants that can grow in a wide range of conditions. Which means they are found in a wide range of countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the USA.
They are hardy plants that are easy to grow, but you do have to be careful with them because if you just let them grow naturally and unchecked, they can become invasive.
Therefore, it is advisable to keep them in pots or raised beds in your garden, allotment, basecamp, or land.
Where do you find them
If you are on a gathering trip, you will likely find them near water sources in cool, partially shaded areas in moist soil.
They grow all year round, so follow your nose, and if you get a whiff of mint then they will be there.
As I have previously mentioned they are hardy, fast growing, and wide-ranging plants, so don’t be surprised to find them anywhere.
And when you find a big crop, don’t be surprised to find nothing else around them, as they do tend to take over.
Therefore, if you are growing them agriculturally be careful how you plant them, where you plant them, and what you plant them next too.
How to identify them
Probably the easiest way to identify them is by their smell, they are wonderfully aromatic with a distinctive minty smell surprisingly!
You always get that strong mint smell with any mint plant, which is then accompanied with other aromas depending on the type.
For example, the lemon mint has a distinct mint smell with an underlying lemon smell. You can smell them both, but the mint tends to be the most powerful smell.
To identify them visually, they are usually quite small plants between 10 and 30 cm but can grow to 120cm.
They have long, wide spreading, and branched stems (stolons), they stand upright, the leaves are usually in opposite pairs, typically between lanceolate and oblong, the leaves are usually serrated, and feel furry or downy, the leaves will also usually be dark green but that can differ depending on the type.
So, you have decided you want to grow some mint, this is how you can do it:
Grow mint from seed
The first option is to buy some mint seeds and grow from scratch.
Where to buy them from
Any place that sells vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flower seeds will sell a range of mint seeds as they are a common thing for people to grow. They are a great thing to start children off with, as mint is almost bombproof.
The easiest places you can get them from are Garden Centres, Online Stockists, and Prepping Survivalist Companies like My Patriot Supply.
You will likely find a wide range of options, so pick a mint variety you have a fancy for, buy it and get cracking.
When to plant mint seeds
Depending on where you live, you can start planting them basically all year round, as long as you avoid a time of year where there are frosty mornings.
So typically, late spring is a great time to start as it is with most plants. But like I have said if you are reading this at any time of year, just get started they should grow quite well.
How to best grow mint seeds
The best method is to start the seeds off indoors, using some form of germinator. I prefer a Bio Dome but any seed starting kit or device will work.
Using the Bio Dome, you simply place some seeds on a Bio Sponge and put them in your Bio Dome.
Leave them uncovered and in natural light, then they should start to sprout in 15 days and probably quicker depending on the room temperature.
When they have two sets of leaves, you can plant them in a plant pot, container, or plant them outside with consideration of their invasion tendencies.
As they are hardy plants and if it is a sensible time of year, it is pretty low risk to attempt to sow them directly outside.
All you have to do is pick an area you want them to grow, work the soil over, place in some seeds and put something like vermiculite or manure over the top of them.
A row cover is a good idea like it is when planting any seeds, it just gives a little protection from the cold and pests.
- Harvest leaves in the morning, this is when the oils and therefore the smell and taste are strongest.
- Harvest regularly, pick the mature leaves to allow new ones to thrive.
- If the mint is in a fast-growing stage, pinch off the tips of the stems, resulting in a bushier and less tall plant.
Grow mint from cuttings
Growing mint from mint seeds is almost fool proof but growing mint from cuttings is arguably even easier.
Find mint in the wild, or locate some mint you have grown previously, or buy a specific variety you want from a garden centre or somewhere similar.
With some secateurs or a bush knife take a cutting. You ideally need a length of around 7 cm, take a cut below a point where the leaf grows out of the stem. A range of 6 to 10 leaves is a good cut.
Pop the cutting in a glass of water, and leave it indoors and at room temperature, and in a place that will get natural light.
Wait until the stems have grown some roots, which will be no more than 15 days.
Pot the mint plant into any container you intend to use, or plant directly outside in the soil.
What is mint used for
Whilst mint does have a blend of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. And it does have a range of vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin A & C… it is not used as a source of nutrition.
The reason for this is that you would have to eat too much of it to get the required nutrition you need.
Mint is more of a condiment, it is a herb that is used to enhance flavour and elevate the taste of a meal or drink usually.
Because mint can be found all over the world, has a delicious flavour, a distinctive smell, and it is so easy to grow… you find that mint is found in different cuisines all over the world and it is not just a flavour of your favourite chewing gum.
You will find it dried in most people’s spice racks, but I always prefer my herbs to be fresh. Fresh mint is most commonly finely cut into ribbons or chiffonade as chefs like to call it. But really us normal folk just say… chop it up ha-ha.
It is best to add it towards the end of the cooking process, so it maintains its flavour and texture, where the main aim is to add a flavour boost to the main dish.
When you start thinking about what mint is used in, you will get a bit of a shock as it is used in a huge range of traditional cuisines and modern-day foods… both sweet and savoury.
I can’t list all the ways it is used, as it would take too long for me to type and for you to read!
But here are some examples:
The British use mint sauce on a Lamb roast dinner, the French use peppermint with poached Salmon, Austrians use it to flavour potato and cheese dumplings, Mexicans use mint in a meatball soup, and in Asia it is popularly used in a dip called Raita which is a godsend if you accidently choose a curry that is too spicy… as the mint and yogurt in it both have cooling properties for the taste buds.
Then you have the huge range of ways it is used to appease your sweet tooth, things like mint ice cream, mint flavoured chocolate and boiled sweets… if you haven’t tried Kendal Mint Cake you should (unless you have sensitive teeth!!!).
It is a great energy boost if you are on a strenuous day hike.
Recipe example: Mint Sauce
When I am in the woodland camping, I love to cook lamb as it is hard to overcook, as it is so fatty and juicy. Plus, it isn’t harmful if you undercook it.
So, whilst I am cooking my joint of lamb over a fire, I rustle up a cheeky mint sauce for the lamb.
Mint sauce is very easy to make and is really delicious.
All you need is:
- Large handful of mint leaves
- 2 teaspoons of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of malt vinegar
- 250ml or a cup of boiling water
- Salt to taste
How to make it:
- Chop the mint leaves as finely as you can be bothered, but the finer the better.
- Pop them into your boiling water.
- Leave for 5 minutes.
- Drain and rinse them with cold water.
- Place the mint in a serving pot of bowl, and add the vinegar, sugar, and salt.
- Gently stir everything together.
- Leave for 20 minutes and serve on the cooked lamb.
Mint also finds its way into a lot of drinks too, due to it having a strong but pleasant taste. You will find it in teas, cocktails, liqueurs, and my personal favourite with Hot Chocolate.
Mint isn’t just an added flavour though; it has medicinal properties and benefits too. Peppermint tea especially is used to help with digestive issues such as heartburn, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome.
It is also something that can help with things like the common cold, as mint contains menthol. So, a nice hot mint tea may help cut through that stuffy nose, due to the decongestant properties of menthol and therefore mint.
Recipe example: Mint Tea
I am almost embarrassed to call this a recipe, as it is so easy to make. But I do love making a mint tea around my basecamp on a chilly afternoon.
All you need is:
- Handful of fresh mint leaves
- Boiling water
How to make it:
- Get the mint leaves and run them in your hand to release the oils.
- Pop them into a teapot.
- Leave them for a few minutes.
- Strain the water into a teacup.
I told you it wasn’t much of a recipe! But it does taste great. If you are feeling especially fancy, you can add some Honey for an extra flavour kick but don’t use milk like you would in traditional English teas. That would taste awful.
There are probably millions of uses for mint, and ones that you would never expect.
There is one use I have found which is really useful… Mint Oil makes a very effective natural insecticide.
You can buy the Mint Oil, or you can make your own. Whichever way you choose, use a 1:1 ratio of Mint Oil and water. And spray it onto the plants, flowers, vegetables you want to protect.
I also have wooden floors in my home, so I spray the oil around the sides of the room, and I have anecdotally found it to reduce the number of spiders I see.
Don’t spray the oil in places people walk though, as that could potentially be dangerous.
Mint is so easy to grow yourself, either from mint seeds or from cuttings.
It can be grown all year round.
It can be grown pretty much anywhere and in any conditions.
It has a huge range of uses… nutritionally, medicinally, and cosmetically.
So, if you don’t have access to fresh mint… then the question is…