Mint is my favorite herb to grow: hardy in hot sun, forgiving if you forget to water it, and a delicious ingredient in everything from herbal tea to ice cream.
Gardeners are warned not to let mint run wild in raised beds (mints can turn invasive and choke out other plants); an ideal home for this herb is in a container garden. Plant it in a pot on a patio or grow it on a sunny windowsill in your apartment—or better yet, grow several varieties at once. Different mints have distinctive flavors and fragrances.
Here are nine of my favorite mints to grow (and recipes for each):
Photography by Mimi Giboin for Gardenista.
Botanical Name: Mentha spicata var. crispa
Flavor: “This highly potent mint with an unmistakable sweet spearmint-y scent is THE mint for teas,” notes Annie’s Annuals. “Its clear bright and fresh mint taste is both calming and invigorating—precisely why so many tea drinkers love it.”
Botanical Name: Mentha spicata ‘Spearmint’
Flavor: A sweet mint with a light, bright flavor, spearmint finds its way into gum, candy, and cocktails.
In the Kitchen: Spearmint is an essential ingredient in Louisa Shafia’s Watermelon, Mint, and Cider Vinegar Tonic, dubbed a “Genius Recipe” by Food52, which notes: “It is the most refreshing drink you will have this summer. And because it’s a grown-up drink without alcohol, you can take it on a picnic, at any park, without having to look side-eyed at cops that might pass by.”
Botanical Name: Mentha ‘Hillary’s Sweet Lemon’
Flavor: Named after First Lady Hillary Clinton, this mint’s “soft green leaves have an apple-citrus scent and flavor,” notes Colonial Creek Farm.
In the Kitchen: This mint’s lemon-scented leaves are an essential ingredient in Lemon Raspberry Bars from Mother Earth Living.
Botanical Name: Satureja douglasii
Flavor: A mint relative grown as a perennial ground cover in gardens, Yerba Buena is “used medicinally by native people for indigestion, insomnia, fevers, colds, arthritic pain, and toothaches,” notes Annie’s Annuals.
In the Kitchen: Add leaves to salads for a spearmint-like taste.
Botanical Name: Mentha spicata ‘Strawberry’
Flavor: Strawberry mint is “an unusual mint with a fragrance resembling strawberry candy, but with an earthy undertone that is not the least bit minty,” notes Annie’s Annuals. “It’s perfect for sprinkling over fruit salads, ice creams—or just add hot water for a unique and delicate tea with a lingering sweet strawberry aftertaste.”
In the Kitchen: For a refreshing dessert, use this mint in Jamie Oliver’s Strawberries with Lemon and Mint recipe.
Kentucky Colonel Mint
Botanical Name: Mentha spicata ‘Kentucky Colonel’
Flavor: The classic spearmint to add to mint juleps, ‘Kentucky Colonel’ also “can be used in any recipe calling for spearmint, including mint sauce and mint jelly,” notes Mountain Valley Growers
In the Kitchen: Try our Mint Julep for Derby Day.
Botanical Name: Mentha suaveolens ‘Variegata’
Flavor: For a slight taste of pineapple, “place a couple of fresh mint leaves in the filter with the freshly ground coffee as it brews in the morning for a very pleasant cup of coffee,” suggests Backyard Path Herbal. “A few leaves in hot chocolate tastes great, too. I add a couple of dried mint leaves to my sugar bowl in summer to add flavor to the sugar, for serving to guests with iced tea.”
In the Kitchen: Pineapple mint is a delicious addition to Broiled Eggplant with Garlic Yogurt and Mint.
Botanical Name: Mentha x piperita
Flavor: With a stronger taste than spearmints, peppermint is “excellent in beverages, jellies, salads, sauces, and desserts,” notes Annie’s Annuals.
In the Kitchen: With summer ahead, we are embarking on the season for Food52’s Fresh Mint Chip Ice Cream.
Botanical Name: Mentha x piperita ‘Chocolate’
Flavor: Chocolate mint “neither smells nor tastes like chocolate, but rather it is reminiscent of an Andes after-dinner chocolate Mint,” notes Mountain Valley Growers. “Thus, the suggestion of Chocolate is there and is strong enough to make us love it.”
In the Kitchen: Try Mountain Valley Growers’ recipe for Chocolate Mint Banana Bread.