More than just flavoring for toothpaste or chewing gum, mint (Mentha spp.) is a versatile herb whose leaves can be used for culinary purposes, as pest deterrents or to create a soothing bath. Mint is such a prolifically growing herb that if you have a mint plant, you also have more than enough mint leaves to use for whatever purpose you desire.
Used extensively as a garnish on desserts of virtually every type, mint leaves add a touch of green along with their crisp freshness. Whether or not the dessert actually contains mint, a sprig of its ruffled leaves gives the serving a polished look that few other garnishes can accomplish.
Mint tea can be made using about a dozen fresh mint leaves or 1 tsp. dried, crushed mint leaves. Steep for five minutes in 8 oz. water. Drink while hot or pour over ice for a refreshing summer drink.
A sprig of mint is also commonly added to a glass of regular iced tea, particularly in the southern United States.
The mint julip, a concoction of sugar, muddled fresh mint and Kentucky whiskey, and the mojito, a similarly made Cuban cocktail that uses rum instead of whiskey, can only be made using fresh mint leaves.
Companion Plant and Pest Repellent
Mint is beneficial to the growth of beets, cabbage and tomatoes. The leaves of mint used as a mulch for these crops help to keep away cabbage moths, aphids, ants and flea beetles. Mint planted near these crops accomplishes the same thing, but it is so invasive that it should not be planted in the vegetable garden.
Leaves or small sprigs of fresh mint can repel mice and ants. Scatter the leaves or sprigs of mint in any place where you want to repel these household pests. The scent is repelling to them and they stay away from it.
A tea made of fresh or dried mint leaves is refreshing when added to a cool bath. Add a large handful of fresh mint leaves or 1/4 cup dried mint leaves to 1 qt. boiling water. Allow it to steep for 20 minutes and then strain out the mint. Add the mint "tea" to your bath water. The menthol in the mint is very cooling on a hot summer evening.