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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mint, perennially yours...

No, this is not a very glamorous photo. I always try to select the best shot and put it up first so I catch your eye. Today's topic though doesn't really call for beautiful photos, if only I could send this to you in smell-a-vision :-)

This little bed is under a red maple tree on the far side of my pool. It was the only bed that was here when we moved in 13 years ago. Pretty funny, 1.3 acres of amazing property, one bed, maybe 8 feet across. In this bed was the oddest collection of plants, there was mint, chives and dicentra eximia (old fashioned bleeding heart), that's about it. It is shaded most of the day, only getting sun in the late afternoon.

The chives were taken out years ago, up until this spring it was filled with mint in the front and Polygonatum (solomon's seal) in the back. The Solomon's seal was dug and sold so now the mint has plenty of room to roam.

All together I have 5 different mints in my garden but there are still more varieties available. The leaf you see with the white edge is Mentha suaveolens 'variegata' or more commonly known as Pineapple mint. Just to the right of it is the unknown variety of mint I found under the red maple tree.

Mints can be agressive growers in the right conditions. They prefer some shade and damp soil and will run around like crazy if you plant them in those conditions. Still, when using mint in your kitchen, you will need large quantities so it really doesn't hurt to have a large planting of mint.

In this pot is spearmint. I've found that mint overwinters very well in plastic pots so if you don't want to take the chance and plant it in your garden, leave it in pots that won't shatter over the winter and you will have it again next year.

I could put up lots of photos of the mints in my garden but they all would look pretty much the same. The peppermint looks just like the spearmint and I make sure I keep a label with them so I can tell them apart. Of course if you pinch a leaf you will smell the difference. Just like life savers, there's a big difference between peppermint and spearmint (give me the peppermint please).

This last photo actually shows Melissa officinalis (common Lemon Balm) which is in the mint family. Quite a few plants are related to mint, they all smell wonderful to me.

There's many ways to use your mint. One easy way is to cut a bunch of stems, pluck off the leaves, boil water and let them steep for 20 minutes, strain the water into ice-cube trays and freeze. Add these mint flavored ice cubes to your summer drinks, if you really want to be fancy, slip a slice of lemon or lime or even a raspberry in the tray before freezing and your guests will think you are amazing!

Today or tomorrow I'm heading out to the Peconic river herb farm, I think I need to add to my mint collection. I'm just watching the weather as ideally I'd like some cloud cover when I head out there so I can take some photos to share with all of you.


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