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Mint and More Mint

Susan Wittig Albert's Plant Mysteries
by Susan Wittig Albert
February 4, 2001

About 15 years ago, my husband Bill Albert and I, newly married, visited Arkansas. On a pretty riverbank I found a healthy stand of mint. I dug up a plant, brought it home, and planted it beside Pecan Creek, at the bottom of our meadow. Now, I can find mint growing a half-mile downstream, fragrant and footloose. I’ll never run out of mint for iced tea, minted lemonade, and (a family favorite) ginger-mint vinegar.
There’s no trick to growing mint. In fact, the trick is to keep it from growing where you don’t want it to! You can plant it in hanging baskets, or try this trick: Cut the bottom from a 5-gallon plastic pot or bucket, and sink it in the garden in a moist but sunny spot. Plant the mint (spearmint, peppermint, or apple, orange, or chocolate mint) in this made-for-mint bed, and you won’t have to worry about chasing it all over the neighborhood. If you want to grow more than one variety, plant them at opposite ends of the garden and never let them meet. If they do, they will marry and become one mint forever, and you will lose the distinctive flavors that you started with. Once your mint is growing, you need to keep it trimmed to retard blooming and make your plant bushier.
Over the centuries, mint has been prized as a medicinal and aromatic herb, and was thought to symbolize wisdom and eternal refreshment. The plant was first mentioned as a soother for stomach aches in the Ebers Papyrus, the world’s oldest extant medical treatise. In Biblical times, it was accepted as a tax payment (try telling that to the IRS!). In the Mediterranean area, mint was added to milk to keep it from spoiling, and hung in sickrooms to "revive the sick spirit." Throughout the Middle Ages, the plant was used to treat indigestion and seasickness, and was used as a strewing herb. When English colonists set foot in North America, they found the Indians using various native mints to treat chest congestion, colds, and cough. It wasn’t until the early 1880s, however, that menthol (the active chemical in mint) was distilled from peppermint oil, and found to be useful in treating wounds, burns, insect bites, and stings. It was also added to inhalants and chest rubs to relieve congestion. To treat minor stomach upsets, brew 1-2 teaspoons of dried mint per cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes. Sweeten and drink up to 3 cups a day.
Growing mint in your garden may not make you wise--but it does promise eternal refreshment.

© 2000 Susan Wittig Albert. All rights reserved.
Susan Wittig Albert is the author of the China Bayles Herbal Mysteries. The series features China Bayles, a former attorney who owns an herb shop. Each of the mysteries has an herbal theme and an herb-related title. The latest is Lavender Lies. You can find out more about Susan's books and read one of her free web mysteries at

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