By Guest Writer Bernadine Chapman-Cruz
Mint – a plant that reigns supreme when it comes to a potent freshness that adds a fragrant aroma to your garden as well as your table. This hearty herb is diverse in culinary and curative properties ranging from the Middle East and Asian countries to Northern Europe and the Americas.
But gardeners beware. The quickly growing carpeting ground cover is considered invasive, choking out other garden plants and herbs in close proximity when planted in a flowerbed. For best results, plant mint in a separate area away from other herbs or in a container pot with saucer, so roots will not grow through the drainage hole and take hold in the soil underneath. It is best to keep mint plantings away from other herbs, as the strong mint scent can overtake milder herbs mingling aromas.
Mint flavor is cool, refreshing and aromatic. Plant either root cuttings or seeds in late spring. Choose a rich soil, in a cool, damp, moist location. Mint also tolerates full sun, but generous watering is required. Mulch to protect plants against frost. Garden mint grows profusely from underground runners, requiring cutting back when blooms appear. Thin mint frequently to discourage overgrowth. Harvest small tender leaves at soil level for strongest mint flavor.
In the realm of culinary delights, mint enhances beverages like Mint Julep and hot or iced teas. Mint flavored jellies and syrups are also popular. Many recipes call for mint as seasoning for lamb, pork, peas, potatoes and even desserts including mint flavored ice cream.
The herb is also known for its medicinal properties. For centuries mint has been linked to curatives for stomach ailments, insomnia, headaches and used as a natural diuretic. Beauty regimens including mint have been traced back to Ancient Egypt and the herb is also used as an antiseptic. Mint can also be used to freshen breath and clean teeth.
Mint is an aggressive natural insecticide in the garden, warding off mosquitoes, wasps, hornets, cockroaches and ants.
Springtime is mint time. Enjoy this pungent herb fresh from your garden.
Copyright 2012 Bernadine Chapman-Cruz