In the gardening world there is a lot of mint phobia. If you are neurotic like that just breathe deeply and relax, because mint comes in sizes and I will begin our discussion with a non-threatening size small mint or maybe, like in blue jeans, size XXS–I have never ever heard of this tiny mint being invasive.
This is called Corsican mint (Mentha requienii) and is noted for “giving out a desirable mint smell when trod upon” (Wikipedia) and also not dying after the trodding so it gets planted often among stepping stones like this. I used to know a woman named Nellie who aspired to all things beautiful and perfect in life (including her poor children who I expect are in serious adult therapy by now) and Nellie was the first person I ever met who planted this mint as part of a path. But I grow it that way anyway.
In return for being stepped upon the Corsican mint really does release the most lovely minty fragrance, so I guess it likes the abuse. (If you do have a mint-growing phobia at least you are emotionally healthier than this plant in that you probably don’t want stepping on. So be comforted.)
Growing tips: I used to kill this mint with too little water. But if you give it too much water then it will rot. So good luck with that. But if it starts sort of disintegrating don’t worry, it never dies completely, it just looks terrible. (That’s when you dig it up and try again.)
Sudden culinary note: crème de menthe is made from Corsican mint.
Having used tiny mint to, so to speak, harden you off (that’s a gardening metaphor right there) now we will move on to tall mint. Mints I mean. Because there are more mints than Walmart has underpaid employees. Well maybe not that many. But there is orange mint and chocolate mint and pineapple mint and apple mint. I don’t think there is coffee mint. But they all taste mostly like peppermint to me. (There is also spearmint, which does not taste the same and if you like the gum, which I don’t, you will like spearmint.)
The one above is an old encampment of mint. It is sufficiently crowded and contained by a tree, the fence, the lawn mower and a shrub. And clay soil. Not scary at all.
Mint is actually a crop in Oregon and it is irrigated. An intense oil is distilled from the plants.
Above is the image of a mint field I passed today. (I remember walking across one of these fields as a little child, and how my shoes smelled like peppermint for ages afterward.)
I like to dry mint leaves on a tray in summer and then store them in a jar for winter tea, very easy and it gives me a lovely false sense of having prepared for winter before I remember about the firewood.
Some mint leaves are fuzzy, like this apple mint.
I don’t like to make tea with fuzzy leaves–it feels like drowning a small green animal. So I’ve kind of let the fuzzy mint go although it always appears in moderation at the garden frontier.
Disclaimer: If you have rich awesome perfect soil and lots of water and shade you may find your tall mint plant will exhibit opportunistic underground spreading behaviors which is to say you could rue the day you ever planted it and/or wish you were dead. But I’ve grown mint for years and even had it perish in some places from crowding and dry summers so really it can go either way. In short, like so many things in life, empirical first-hand evidence is the only truth you can count upon– so consider gambling, or put it in a pot.
Part 2 of this post about mint is coming very soon. I bought the bourbon and I’ve got the peppermint leaves and I’m going to test-drive a classic southern cocktail called a mint julep. Stay tuned because I’ve never done this before and also I may need you to crush the ice…