Silly Food Fact
Mmm … the wonderful aroma of mint! This fragrant herb is named after a Greek mythology character, Minthe. In fact, the Greeks used mint to season meat, freshen breath, and cure hiccups. Today, the U.S. produces 70% of the two most common mint varieties, spearmint and peppermint. Mint is popular in everything from chewing gum to tea to ice cream.
Why Our Bodies Love It
Mint is well known as a medicinal herb. A stomach ache can be soothed with mint tea, which stimulates digestive enzymes. Mild congestion from a cold can be eased by inhaling the menthol oil from mint. Some people find that mint can help itchy insect bites, relax muscles, and whiten teeth. There are ongoing studies to see if mint might be a true brain food since it’s reported to improve focus and concentration.
Care and Picking
Besides their fragrance, look for the one distinctive feature of all mints: they have a square stem. Mint plants are happy in partial sun and like moisture—not too wet, though, or the roots may mold. Throughout the growing season, clip off mint stems to harvest the fresh leaves. There are lots of fun mint plants: golden-apple mint, pineapple mint, and chocolate mint are just a few. Ask a friend for a cutting from their plant; it’s easy to turn it into a mint of your own!
Tips and Warnings
Okay, mints do have one bad habit—they send out runners that can take over your garden! The solution is to plant mint in a container, either sunk into your garden or kept above ground. Spearmint handles hot weather best; peppermint does well in cold climates. Fresh mint keeps several days in the refrigerator. Dry extra mint by hanging stems upside down in a dark place; then crush and put in an airtight container. Freeze mint leaves inside ice cubes to use in summer drinks, or drop a mint leaf into your next cup of hot chocolate.