Originally indigenous to Asia and the Mediterranean, the mint plant is now cultivated in a wide range of climates and growing conditions. Mint grown in the garden may become invasive and overrun large patches of ground. Properly looked after, however, your mint plants will enhance your garden, your cooking and your health.
In the Garden
In the garden, mint is useful as a companion plant. Mint repels aphids and cabbage flies. Plant it near tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli and greens.
Use mint as a border plant to aid in reducing rodent visitations. Mice, rats and other such vermin are repelled by mint and may refrain from entering your home when confronted with mint in your landscape.
Mint also provides a fresh aroma to your garden. The mint plant releases a crisp and heady scent that may revitalize your senses, stimulate your appetite and otherwise lighten your mood. Taking in the scent of fresh mint while sitting in your garden is a simple form of aromatherapy.
In the Kitchen
Use mint leaves in stir fry, sausages and stuffings, in fruit salads and as a seasoning for lamb and pork. Mint is used for teas, both warm and cold, as well as for alcoholic drinks such as mint julep or liqueurs.
Dry your excess harvested leaves and store them in an airtight container for up to six months. Use the dried leaves as you would fresh in your cooking.
Mint adds flavor to your cooking, but also adds nutrients. It is a source of magnesium, vitamins A and C and has concentrations of antioxidants.
The active ingredients in mint are the essential menthol oils for medicinal applications. Use the fresh leaves in a poultice to heal minor burns and skin irritations.
Mint tea may settle the stomach and aid digestion, clear your sinuses and calm your nerves. Chewing a fresh spearmint leaf alleviates sour stomach and bad breath.
The aromatic scent of mint is thought to clear the mind and relieve mental stress. Inhaling vapors from tea leaves steeped in hot water may relieve bronchial distress as well as relax the muscles and soothe the nerves.
Menthol, though, should be used in moderation. Avoid using mint in medicinal applications for infants and young children, the elderly and pregnant women.
Tie a bundle of mint with a ribbon and hang it from the ceiling for a natural air freshener. Place crumbled mint leaves in a bowl along with chamomile or thyme for a subtle potpourri. Bundle the mix into a small square of fabric for a sachet to freshen the linen closet or drawers.
Mint leaves also repel insects such as flies and mosquitoes. Hang a bundle of mint near a doorway to keep the summer pests from entering your home.