Just say mint, and immediately I have a sense of freshness. Do you too?

Maybe it reminds you of the last time you had mojito at a party or the spring rolls you had at a Vietnamese restaurant lately. Wherever is mint, there’s always fun!

It’s a cooking herb and medicinal plant all in one. In fact, you can use it to flavor green tea, enhance the aroma of a fruit salad, or make digestive infusions.

You already know it: it’s one of those valuable herbs in the garden! Or even in a pot on the balcony. Both are fine since it’s really easy to grow.

In this post, I tell you:

The most common varieties

Closeup on Spearmint plant

There are many varieties of mint. They all belong to the botanic family Lamiaceae – like many culinary herbs like rosemary, sage, basil, oregano, thyme, and lavender.

The most commonly used is Mentha spicata, the one used in mojito and other cocktails and spring rolls. It is also called garden mint and spearmint. In the Middle East, it is particularly appreciated to flavor green tea.

Another one widely spread and cultivated  is peppermint, Mentha x piperita.

Also very popular is lesser calamint, whose botanic name is Clinopodium nepeta. Known as “mentuccia,” it enhances the taste of many Italian dishes, typically artichokes, adding a unique aroma between mint and oregano to vegetable and meat dishes.

How to grow and multiply mint

Mints are very easy to grow. You only need rich and moist soil in a sunny or semi-shady place.

And you know what? They are also easy to multiply. You can actually grow them indefinitely for free.

You buy one plant once, and then, you make all the plants you want. All you have to do is cut the top of some stalks, put them in a glass of water, and wait until they produce little roots. Change the water often until it’s time to put them in the soil.

That’s it. So what are you waiting for?

Congratulations, you have new baby-mint plants!

The benefits of mint

Spearmint and peppermint are traditionally used to improve digestion. Scientific research has also shown antimicrobial, antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective activities of Spearmint (Mahendran et al., 2021) and Peppermint (Mahendran et al., 2020).

How to use mint in cooking

In summer, we use it to flavor water with fresh herbs, for example, basil, cucumber, and lemon. It also gives a touch of freshness to fruit salads and other sweets. We often make Vietnamese spring rolls and Thai curry. For these dishes to be successful, fresh herbs are essential. Fortunately, mint grows easily in the garden. Except in the middle of winter, we pretty much always have it available. For other herbs, such as shiso, Thai basil, and cilantro, due to the climate, we can only grow them in summer.

Lemon, mint, basil, and cucumber detox water
Lemon, mint, basil, and cucumber detox water

Some botanic facts

The mint group includes many different species. Wikipedia says 13-24. They all belong to the Lamiaceae family, once called Labiatae. You can easily recognize the species in this family from the square-shaped stem and their characteristic bilaterally symmetrical flower, with five united petals and five united sepals. Also, the disposition of their leaves is typical: the leaves are often opposite two by two and arranged at 90 degrees.

The stem is square-shaped in the perennial herbaceous plant, about 50 cm high as in all Lamiaceae. The leaves are typically perfumed thanks to the essential oils they contain. The bilobed, pinkish flowers are arranged in cylindrical spikes.

How Bees love mint flowers

When mint blooms, bees can’t resist the sweet scent of its nectar. They absolutely adore the nectat r of all types of mint without exception. In return, they ensure pollen transport from one flower to another of the same spike or of different plants.

Have you ever tasted mint honey? It has a pleasant and delicate taste of mint.

Even if the photo below is not quite perfect, I had a lot of fun taking it. It was a bit of a windy day, but the bee carrying on going around the flowers for a good twenty minutes, preferring them to those of the other nearby herbs!

A bee collecting nectar from a Spearmint spike
A bee collecting nectar from a Spearmint spike

Last updated: 25 June 2022

About Valentina

Valentina is an international communication consultant. She has served communication and PR agencies for several years by providing insights into local French and Italian food trends and traditions. Thanks to her multicultural background, she focuses on promoting intercultural collaboration for sustainable living.