Sunday, July 16, 2017

My Mints

I find I am collecting mint plants and searching for more!

It started with a humble spearmint growing wild in the yard when I got here in 2011.  I'm pretty sure it was not cultivated, it was in the far back part of the yard where the original owners had done absolutely nothing (imagine, nothing, not even fruit trees, since the house was built in 1962!).
Growing up in California we had spearmint growing near the back kitchen door, which my mother would pick now and again.  I dug the plant out of the ground, put it in a pot, and still have it!  It's scent makes my mouth water for gum!



Chocolate mint and peppermint:  From there it was peppermint and chocolate mint for the herb garden, before I knew mint liked more water and less sun than the Mediterranean herbs in the same bed.  So, they died... I have yet to find healthy looking replacements.  The chocolate mint smells just like a York Peppermint Patty!

chocolate mint


Woolly apple mint came next, found at the farmer's market in town.  I still have it growing in my herb bed, it would do better elsewhere.  It's leaves are furry and soft like a lamb's ear. 

woolly apple mint in bloom
woolly apple mint

After that it was all downhill...  mint after mint has found its way into my home and heart!

Pineapple mint:  I chopped up some pineapple mint leaves to toss into a fruit salad (fresh watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, red seedless grapes, strawberries, and pineapple chunks) last month on my daughter's birthday, and it was extra refreshing! 

pineapple mint pruned back during summer

Strawberry mint: Rub the leaves of this mint and be prepared to be amazed.  It smells just like a strawberry! 

strawberry mint

Sweet pear mint:  Eh... it's a variety I'm glad I have, but as for as fragrance goes, I don't smell the pear. 

sweet pear mint

Citrus basil mint: A nice citrus scent, with broader leaves than most of my others.  I recently transplanted it to a large pot. 

citrus basil mint
Just today I noticed white specks on the new growth of the citrus basil mint.  Through the magic of today's phones I was able to get a photo, and zoom it in close enough to see this...  EWWW!  On my mint! 

nasties on my citrus basil mint!

Orange mint (bergamot mint):  Talk about invasive!  I thought I'd lost mine a few years ago, and put the sad little stems in a garden bed.  They took off to fill a 4x4 bed.  I'm going to have a heck of a time getting it out of there.  Right now it's ready to bloom, so I'm leaving it for the pollinators.

orange mint strangling boysenberries

Lemon balm (a mint family member):  Rub the leaves of lemon balm and it smells just like a lemon drop candy.  You can use the leaves to make tea or stuff under the skin of chicken before roasting.  I got my original plant from a woman when I dropped off some homeschooling materials I didn't need any more.  She gave me lemon balm, and an oregano plant.  I haven't found lemon balm to be invasive as far as underground roots popping up, but it does self-seed and I have plants in unlikely places. 

lemon balm

lemon balm volunteers

cabbage white butterfly on lemon balm

Catnip:  Yes, catnip is a mint!  Nepeta is the genus,  catmint, and Nepeta cataria is what is sold as catnip.  Smelling the dried leaves makes cats silly, but eating the fresh leaves, as Benny does, makes them sleepy.  

Horehound:  Another mint family member, horehound does not smell like lemons, or chocolate, or anything nice!  It's supposed to be hardy under even the most inadequate conditions, but mine has always looked sickly from the day I transplanted it.   It does easily root in water, but even the newly grown plant is not looking too healthy.  

variegated horehound - not a stellar specimen

Mints need to be cut to ground level in the summer. I wait until they have finished blooming, since pollinators absolutely love mint flowers.

catnip - summer cut

woolly apple mint blossoms

catnip blossoms

strawberry mint blossoms

lemon balm flowers

lemon balm flowers

Mint offers nearly an endless opportunity to feed my addiction!  "Julep," variegated ginger, "Mojito," "Eau de Cologne," grapefruit, the tiny "Corsican" mint that's perfect between paving stones...  there's even one that tastes like chewing gum, called appropriately, "Chewing Gum" or mentha spicata, a type of spearmint!  

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