Mint Herb Information

Herb: Mint


Mint, Mentha piperita, is a culinary herb used to flavor meats, sweets and drinks.

Mint grows about two feet tall and will bush out if the stem ends are regularly pinched off. Mint has spikes of white to light pink flowers.

Mint Characteristics

  • perennial
  • erect, branching stem to 2 feet tall
  • opposite leaves finely toothed
  • leaves and leaf margins smoother than spearmint leaves
  • leaves have short stems
  • purple to pink tubular flowers in terminal spikes, interrupted whorls
  • distinct minty smell
  • found near houses, garden escapes

Mint Uses

  • culinary
  • gardening

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Growing Mint

Growing conditions: Mint can be started by seed indoors and transplanted to a sunny to partially sunny location outdoors after the danger of frost is past. Shade tolerant. Frequent cuttings spur growth.

Light: sun, partial shade

Height: 24 inches

Spacing: 18 inches

Planting comments: Rhizomes are very invasive. If cutting tops is not enough to keep mint from spreading too far, plant a bucket with holes in the bottom in the place where the mint is to be planted. The rhizomes will stay mostly in the bucket, but runners will still allow the mint to be somewhat invasive.

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Mint Images

Peppermint Leaves Full of Essential Oil
Peppermint Leaves Full of Essential Oil

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Where to Buy Mint

Mint is available as seeds or plants. Depending on the time of year you may be able to find a plant at your nearby garden center. In case they’re are not available locally, here are some places that offer herb seeds and herb plants.

In case you can’t find what you’re looking for commercially, take a look at some of the online seed swap sites where you can find many unusual plants and common ones, too.

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Chef’s Article: Mint Comes In Many Flavors

by Naomi Gallagher

Mint is a term that may refer to one of 300 species in the mint family, but more often mint refers in a generic way to only a handful of plants. Mints tend to have sharp or piercing strong aromas and a peppery hot taste that may linger on the palate.

Popular herb garden mint plants may be unique species or hybrids between two mint species. Peppermint is one such hybrid although it was originally thought to be its own species. It is the result of cross-fertilization of spearmint, Mentha spicata, and water mint, M. aquatica. Being a hybrid plant, peppermint is represented as Mentha x piperita. It is also known as M. balsamea.

Other hybrid mints have distinct aromas and flavors for which they’re named. Ginger mint, Mentha x gracilis, also known as M. cardiaca, is a hybrid between spearmint and M. arvensis. Apple mint, Mentha x villosa, is a hybrid between spearmint and M. suaveolens.

Garden varieties of peppermint have been developed into cultivars that breed true and are regularly grown for their unique aromas and flavors. Orange mint, Mentha x piperita ‘Citrata’, and cocoa mint, Mentha x piperita ‘Chocolate mint’, are two examples of peppermint cultivars.

Peppermint in all its varieties is a perennial plant. Being a hybrid peppermint doesn’t set seed and instead it spreads by underground rhizomes or surface runners that aggressively seek new areas for extending their growth. In some areas the mints are considered invasive. Peppermints are not fussy about soil requirements and will live in partial shade.

Gardeners have tricks for containing the wild roots of mint plants. Bottomless buckets can be sunk around a mint plant so that the roots will stay in one area. Wooden boards several inches wide can be sunk in the ground around the area to be contained. Alternatively, the mints can be planted in tubs in order to restrict the invasive root growth.

Small purple flowers in terminal spikes are a nice addition to the herb garden, but mint – like other herbs – should be harvested before flowering for the best flavor and aroma. Keeping mint plants pinched back or pruned will postpone flowering. Peppermint can be harvested as needed several times during the growing season.

Mints are grown for their fragrance. Fresh and dried leaves are used for flavoring sauces and beverages. Some of the foods made with or flavored by mint include mint jelly, mint sauce, herbal teas, iced teas, fruit drinks, candies and sweets. Peppermint has a particular affinity for chocolate. Some meat dishes use mint to offset strong tastes, for example lamb is often served with mint jelly.

Fresh peppermint leaves make an excellent garnish for beverages, dinner plates and serving plates. Chewing on a sprig of mint will freshen breath after a meal. Eating a couple leaves may help with digestion. Fresh leaves are available from early spring through late fall.

Oil of mint is the source of menthol which is used on an industrial scale for flavoring confections, liqueurs, toothpastes, mouth washes, medicines and cigarettes.

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