Flowering Mint belongs to the Lamiaceae or Mint family, the species is Mentha. There are more than 600 known species of mint. The most popular and well-known species are: spearmint, peppermint, orange or Bergamot mint, pineapple mint, red-stemmed apple mint, and Pennyroyal. Blossoms appear in mid to late summer. Depending upon the variety of mint, the color of the flowers can be purple, pink or white.
This fragrant herb dates back to the beginning of civilization. The spreading of the herb plant throughout Europe is attributed to the Romans. In medieval times mint was treasured for its aromatic properties. It was used in bathing as well as placed in homes to freshen the air. Around the 18th century it gained popularity for its medicinal uses, it was used to treat colic, digestive odors, and even mad dog bites. In the New World it was used in teas to treat headaches, heartburn, gas, indigestion, and insomnia. Colonists often drank mint tea because the herb was not taxed.
There is even a story in Roman mythology about the flowering mint plant. There was a beautiful young nymph named Minthe. Pluto, who ruled the underworld, became attracted to Minthe. When his wife, whose name was Persephone, learned about Pluto’s attraction and love for Minthe she became very angry. In fact she was so angry she transformed Minthe into a mere plant, a plant that would be stepped upon. Pluto was powerless against the curse, all he could do was to give Minthe a lovely fragrance when stepped upon.
Mint is extremely easy to grow and in fact, under ideal conditions, can become an invasive plant in your garden. This is because it grows or multiplies through its underground runners, enabling it to spread rapidly. Mint is a perennial, which can grow to a height of up to three feet tall. It will grow in most soil conditions although prefers rich, moist soil. This herb will need sun to partial shade to do well. The most important thing to remember when growing mint is that it requires regular watering to thrive.
Pests and Disease
Flowering mint can be attacked by: aphids, cabbage loopers, flea beetles and spider mites. These pests can be controlled by an application of a natural pesticide. Mint plants are also susceptible to rust and anthracnose, which are fungal diseases and can be treated with organic fungicides. Diseased leaves should be removed and discarded.
Harvesting and Uses
Frequent harvesting of mint plants encourages new growth, and the plant will become fuller due to the harvesting/pruning of its leaves/stems. When harvesting it is always best to select the younger leaves and stems as they will be more flavorful. Mint leaves can be used immediately or they can be dried for future use. Fresh mint should be stored in plastic bags and refrigerated. Mint has a variety of uses: as a culinary herb, used in cosmetics, used in pest repellents, and it is also used in potpourri.