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Mints: 9 Favorites for a Cook’s Container Garden

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Mints: 9 Favorites for a Cook’s Container Garden

May 3, 2017

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.

 Mint is a spice drawer favorite in my kitchen, an essential ingredient in everything from mint juleps to iced tea to cherry granita.
Above: Mint is a spice drawer favorite in my kitchen, an essential ingredient in everything from mint juleps to iced tea to cherry granita.

Moroccan Mint

Moroccan Mint; a seedling in a 4-inch pot is $5.95 from Annie&#8
Above: Moroccan Mint; a seedling in a 4-inch pot is $5.95 from Annie’s Annuals.
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.”

In the Kitchen: Mix fresh leaves with loose Chinese Gunpowder Green Tea (4 ounces is $9 from Adagio Teas) and sugar to make Moroccan Mint Tea.

Spearmint

A Mentha Spicata &#8
Above: A Mentha Spicata ‘Spearmint’ seeding in a 4-inch pot is $4.95 from Annie’s Annuals.
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.”

Lemon Mint

Hillary&#8
Above: Hillary’s Sweet Lemon Mint;  a rooted seedling in a 2.5-inch container is $3.95 is from Colonial Creek Farm.
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.

Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena, also called Indian Mint, is an aromatic rambler. A seedling in a 4-inch pot is $7.95 from Annie&#8
Above: Yerba Buena, also called Indian Mint, is an aromatic rambler. A seedling in a 4-inch pot is $7.95 from Annie’s Annuals.
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.

Strawberry Mint

Strawberry Mint&#8
Above: Strawberry Mint’s botanical name is Mentha Spicata ‘Strawberry’. a seedling in a 4-inch pot is $5.95 from Annie’s Annuals.
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

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Above: ‘Kentucky Colonel’ Mint. A seedling in a 3-inch pot is $4.95 from Mountain Valley Growers.
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.

Pineapple Mint

Variegated Pineapple Mint; a seedling in a 3.5-inch pot is $6.95 from Greenwood Nursery.
Above: Variegated Pineapple Mint; a seedling in a 3.5-inch pot is $6.95 from Greenwood Nursery.
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.

Peppermint

Peppermint; a seedling in a 4-inch pot is $5.95 from Annie&#8
Above: Peppermint; a seedling in a 4-inch pot is $5.95 from Annie’s Annuals.
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.

Chocolate Mint

Chocolate Mint; a seedling in a 3-inch pot is $4.95 from Mountain Valley Growers.
Above: Chocolate Mint; a seedling in a 3-inch pot is $4.95 from Mountain Valley Growers.
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.

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Above: It’s easy to turn fresh mint leaves into dried mint. All you have to do is tie a string around a small bundle of mint stems and leave it in the open air for a week or two.

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