By William Mills
Mints are aromatic perennial herbs well known for their association with cooking.
Dried and frozen herbs never have the same appeal as fresh ones and fortunately mint can be grown all year around. Usually planted outside during the summer, a clump can be placed in a pot and kept alive indoors through the winter months.
It’s best grown in a cool moist spot with partial shade although some sun won’t harm. Mint grows quickly and shouldn’t be planted in communal tubs as its roots are likely to spread and take over. The most popular mint plants, widely available from supermarkets and garden centres, are peppermint, spearmint and apple mint. Most grow best in wet environments. A kitchen is ideal and as the soil must be kept wet it’s okay to leave it standing in a saucer of water until the autumn when it needs to dry out a little.
Regular harvesting with encourage more growth and it can be shaped into a bush by careful snipping.
Mint has been used medicinally down the ages. Known to the Greeks as the herb of hospitality the essential oil, Menthol has cooling properties and today we use mint sweets after meals to aid digestion. It’s also used in cigarette manufacture to mask unpleasant tastes and sooth irritated throats..
However it is best known for its culinary uses. Roast lamb is not the same without mint sauce or mint jelly. Bland boiled potatoes are transformed with a few sprigs of mint freshly gathered from one’s own garden or windowsill plant.
Summer is truly here at last and next we will look at harvest time and other ways we can benefit from nature’s bounty growing all around us.