Hooters Hall

Mint the Nymph

Fingers crossed we’ll have a sucessful lambing this year so I’ve been growing lots of Spearmint, Mentha spicata in the polytunnel ready for mint sauce. The origins of the name Mentha lie in mythology Minthe was a nymph, who because of the love Pluto bore her, was metamorphosed by a jealous Proserpine, into a mint plant. The alternative myth is that Minthe was seduced by Hades god of the underworld and his jealous queen Sephony turned Minthe the nymph into a mint plant.

There are 25 species of aromatic perennials in the Mentha genus and not all are particularly great for culinary use. I’ve found that a lot of the fruit scented mints, whilst very aromatic, don’t really retain their scent / flavour when picked.

Common garden mint, lambs mint or to give it its official name Mentha spicata (Spearmint) is however an excellent culinary herb. Eating the leaves fresh from the plant is an intensley minty experience and the flavour is retained when making mint sauce, using in desserts, cocktails and syrups. It also makes a very refreshing herbal tea.

Mentha spicata is a creeping perennial with lilac, pink or white flowers borne in terminal cylindrical spikes. There are a number pf varieties that can add a more decorative look to your herb garden. Mentha spicata var. crispa or curly spearmint has strongly crinkled leaves. Mentha spicata var. crispa ‘Morroccan’ has a very clean mint flavour and a good choice for all culinary uses.

Generally growing mint isn’t a problem it’s growing anything else that can be a difficulty if mint is allowed to rampage freely through your herb garden. Mint spreads  via creeping roots so if you do plant in in a herb garden rather than a container sink a large bottomless bucket in the soil about 30cm deep and plant the mint in the centre. This should contain your mint whilst still giving it plenty of space to grow. Mints hybridize very easily as well so unchecked will not necessarily stay true to type as they wander your garden.

This vigour of mint means that propagation is fairly fail safe. I’ve grown Mentha spicata from seed very easily and also had great sucess with stem cuttings taken at all times of the year. I haven’t tried root cuttings yet but if taken in spring and with care taken to include a node on your cutting sucess is pretty much guaranteed. When planting mint cuttings and seed I’ve just used a standard compost mix.

The other method of propagation  mint is division. Every few years dig up your plants and divide. This will dissuade them from producing too many root runners.

Mint grows quite quickly so get planting in the next few weeks and you could be making your own home grown mint sauce to have with lamb.

Here’s a recipe link http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/realmintsauce_67706

Here’s a recipe for another culinary use for Mint  Mojitos http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/mojito_85338

And a picture and illustration of Mentha spicata var . crispa

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