Introducing the Mint family
This is the fifth in a series of columns prepared by the staff at the award winning West Seattle Nursery. The Nursery is open for shopping, following COVID guidelines and they offer an array of trees, shrubs, bedding plants, garden supplies, decor and gift items. They are located at 5275 California Ave SW and you can find them online at https://www.westseattlenursery.com
What do sage, basil, lavender, coleus, oregano, salvia, rosemary, and thyme have in common? They are all members of the mint family. (You get bonus points if you said that they have opposite leaves, square stems and lipped flowers.)
The “true” mints, though, are those in the genus Mentha, which is the group we’ll cover here. There are many flavors to choose from: orange, chocolate, peppermint, spearmint, pineapple, and apple mint, to name a few.
Mints have been used for thousands of years for flavoring and for medicine. You’ll find mint in candy, mouthwash, shampoos, and soaps. Mint is used medicinally to relive indigestion, headaches, and coughs. Menthol and other compounds derived from mint leaves relax the smooth muscle in the digestive tract, which relieves nausea and eases cramping and pain.
If you want to dry spearmint or peppermint leaves to use for tea, the best time to harvest is on a sunny day, just before the flowers start to open. That is when there will be the highest concentration of oils in the leaves.
Mints are easy to grow, maybe too easy. Gardeners are advised to plant them in pots to keep their roots from running throughout the garden. You might consider planting three or four varieties so you can try different flavors in your tabbouleh, or to garnish your mint juleps this summer. Enjoy!