Simply the Best Herbs-April

IMG_7284 The world is like a little marsh filled with mint and white hawthorn.

Mary MacLane


Good thing I am not trying to blog about what is blooming in my garden as winter returned with a vengeance this past week in the form of almost a foot of snow that was blowing and drifting.  The winds were gusting causing many white outs making it was hard to drive to work Temps were in the 20s.  My poor blooms!  But it has melted and more seasonable temps have returned so that I am finally in my garden.  This is the latest I have ever had to wait to get out to clean up and even plant.  And now I am battling the April rains delaying me further.  Frustration due to garden deprivation is setting in.  But there are blooms, so I am consoled by them and look forward to more showing up slowly.

So what better time to highlight another herb while I wait for my garden to warm and wake.  This month I thought I would highlight the common herb mint (with a remarkable history) as I link in with Diana@Elephant’s Eye on False Bay for her meme, Dozen for Diana.  I am also linking in with Susan Troccolo@Life-Change-Compost for her post, Bee Grateful.  Susie and I have teamed up to give away flower seeds to plant for our native bees which continue to be in trouble.  Check the end of the post for more information about the giveaway.




Mint comes from the Latin word mentha, and the Greek word minthe.  The name, “spear” , refers to the spiry form of its flower.

The name mint generally refers to spearmint, (Mentha spicata) unless otherwise noted with specific names; peppermint, pineapple mint, apple mint.  I grow all these and also chocolate mint.  Spearmint, the most common mint, is also know as Garden Mint.  Most of the pictures here are of my big patch of spearmint.




Mentha  is a number of flowering herb plants in the family, Lamiaceae  or mint family.  This family includes many common cooking herbs like basil, rosemary, sage, oregano, and catnip.  There are about 25 species of mentha.  Hybrids of these species can occur naturally.  Mentha can be found across Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and North America.

IMG_7809Mints are cold hardy perennial herbs that grow in zones 3-11.  Mint grows best in wet, moist soils in sun to partial shade. It is actually one of the best herbs to grow in shade.  Mint will grow up to 2 feet high and wide and can spread quickly becoming invasive. So chose a spot carefully that is confining if you decide to grow this herb.  Growing mint in pots sunk into the ground does not keep mint from spreading as I can attest to personally because the roots jump the sides of the containers and send runners.   To be safe grow them in containers above ground.

The flowers range from white to pink to purple and produce small, seedheads.  These seeds can be propagated but are not the best method to quickly grow mint.  It is best to take plant cuttings from the runners.  Mint acts like a groundcover and when the branches flop over they will root quickly.

The most common and popular mints for cultivation are peppermint (Mentha × piperita), spearmint (Mentha spicata), and apple mint (Mentha suaveolens).

Mint is harvested by snipping sprigs and leaves.  If mint isn’t cut regularly, the stems get longer and the leaves get shorter. Once this happens it is a good idea to cut the plants back by half to get fresh foliage.  




Mint has been used since ancient times by the Arabs who made mint tea.

In Greek mythology mint was known as the herb of hospitality.  Mint was also one of the herbs used in preparing the dead in ancient Greece.IMG_7261 Ancient scholars also wore crowns of mint to aid their concentration. It was said to stimulate the brain and is used as such even today.

Ancient Greeks used mint to perfume parts of the body especially the arms.

One Greek legend tells of Pluto who was in love with the nymph Minte/Menthe. His jealous wife changed Minte into the plant mint, to be forever trampled.

Mint has a prehistoric history in Europe, and was said to have been introduced to England by the Romans.  In the Middle Ages it was called “Spere Mynte” used to cure many maladies, as a stewing herb and laid on the floors to keep the rooms smelling nice.  During the Middle Ages, powdered mint leaves were also used to whiten teeth.  Mint was recommended as a treatment for hiccups, and digestive issues. It was also used externally to heal skin problems.  In the 14th Century early toothpaste was found that was to be used for whitening teeth.

Josselyn, a 17th century English traveler, wrote of his visit to New England where mint was thought to have been brought to by the Pilgrims.





You can harvest mint at any time. Use the stems and leaves right away or store them in plastic bags in the refrigerator.  I also put them in a glass of water.  Mint can be frozen in ice cube trays, and dried.  Dried mint can last up to 2 years.  All parts of the plant yield an aromatic essential oil.

IMG_2121Peppermint oil is used more often than spearmint oil. Mint  sauces and jellies are made with the milder spearmint.

Mint leaves and essential oil are used in beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, ice cream, and in cooking vegetables and meat dishes. I also use them for making mint tea.



Menthol is made from mint essential oil and is found in many cosmetics and some perfumes. Menthol and mint essential oil are also used in medicine  and are very popular in aromatherapy. Mint especially in the form of tea is used to treat stomach aches.  I find it works wonders.   Mint tea is also a diuretic.  And mint is also used as a mild nasal and chest decongestant that I have used successfully.


Mints are used as host plants for Lepidoptera moth and butterflies including the Buff Ermine.

Mints are supposed to make good companion plants, repelling pest insects. But mints can be susceptible to some pests like whitefly, spider mites, aphids, mealybugs.  Mint also attracts bees, butterflies and even birds.

Mint oil is used as an environmentally-friendly insecticide for its ability to kill some common pests like wasps, hornets, ants and cockroaches.  Dried mint also acts as an ant barrier and the oil repels rodents.  We are going to try this outside with the voles.




Language of Flowers

In the language of flowers mint stands for virtue.  It also symbolizes love and passion.



It is the destiny of mint to be crushed.  ~Waverley Lewis Root


 Seed Giveaway

I have joined my blogger friend, Susie Troccolo, at her wonderful blog Life-Change-Compost in giving away seeds to help our native bees.  Check out her post, Bee Grateful.  The first 5 U.S. commenters on each of our blogs will win Bee Friendly seeds.  So leave a comment and win some seeds for the bees.

To find out more information about our native bees and how to attract them, check out this great compilation of resources from Beautiful Wildlife Gardens.

I will have another seed giveaway for my birthday in late May.  So stay tuned!


Check out other posts in the series, Simply the Best-Herbs:

March-Common Yarrow




Next up on the blog:  Next Monday we will see where my garden is on Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  It may surprise you.   April also brings us garden books, Earth Day and Wildflower Tales.  The garden will be busy and I hope to capture some of the highlights to share.  I hope you will join me.

I will be linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my most current post now.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.

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