A thriving mint patch will allow you to add a fresh flavour burst to everything from sauces to salads (and even ice cream).
Mint is one of most versatile and hardy herbs to grow at home, as even the ancient Egyptian knew – it’s been found in tombs from 1000BC. The Romans brought it with them when they marched through Europe to Britain, and in the 14th century it was found in early versions of toothpaste.
As a herbal remedy, mint is valued for its stress-busting and sleep-inducing qualities, and peppermint tea is said to help soothe a queasy stomach. Make your own mint tea by steeping a few leaves of mint in boiling water. Drink it hot, or let it cool and freeze in ice blocks to add a minty tang to summer drinks.
Mint is generally not hard to grow if you find a spot it likes and keep it watered, but it’s something of a bully and will invade your garden if you don’t keep it in its place. It’s a good idea to plant it in a pot, or a bucket with holes in the bottom buried in your garden.
Mint is easy to grow from a cutting. A piece with roots attached can be planted straight in the soil, or pop a cutting in water until it sprouts roots, then plant.
There are as many as 30 different types of mint, with common mint the one we’re familiar with for mint sauce and adding to new potatoes. If you’ve got masses of mint, throw it in all kinds of summer drinks – from non-alcoholic fruity punches to cocktails like mojitos and mint julep. Use it to make tabbouleh or to pep up all sorts of salads. A yoghurt sauce with mint, lemon and garlic will go with pretty much anything.
It’s worth growing peppery Vietnamese mint for Asian dishes, and if you’re a fan of after-dinner mints, look out for chocolate mint. It can be used fresh in drinks, or dry the leaves and use to flavour cakes and desserts – chocolate mint ice cream anyone?