Delightfully fragrant and relatively low maintenance, mint is a joy to grow – earning its place in any kitchen herb garden.
Check out this video for a recipe for Blueberry and Mint Lemonade: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22PjA2G27kg#action=share
Mint can, however, be a little invasive and spreads quickly – so don’t be surprised if you end up with an abundance of this zesty herb at the end of the growing season. Never fear though, your bounty need not go to waste! Here’s everything you need to know about harvesting and using homegrown mint.
How to Harvest & Prepare Mint
Keep your mint plant at its best by frequently harvesting small amounts of the leaves for your culinary and medicinal uses. Not only will you be encouraging the herb to fill out, but young leaves have more flavor than the older ones.
Pick off the leaves as you need them, remembering to harvest no more than one third of the entire plant at any one time until the end of season. If your plant is growing outdoors, then right before it starts to flower, cut the stems to one inch from the ground. You can harvest one mint plant two or three times in one growing season.
Mint sprigs will keep for a few days in water, and the leaves can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days, although it’s best to use them immediately or preserve them by freezing or air-drying.
Here are a couple of fantastic ways to use your beautifully fragrant mint leaves:
As a Food this sweet, zingy and refreshing herb can impart some serious flavor to a dish. Some of the more popular culinary uses of mint include vinegars & Oils. Preserving its flavor through a simple vinegar or oil infusion is one of the most convenient ways to use up mint leaves.
Apple cider vinegar and peppercorns work with mint in pungent vinegar that’s perfect in salad dressings or homemade flavored mayonnaise. A lightly flavored mint oil is idea for drizzling over salads, fresh fish, rice or vegetable dishes.
Mint, the well known mouth and breath freshener that is scientifically known as Mentha, has more than two dozen species and hundreds of varieties. It is an herb that has been used for hundreds of years for its remarkable medicinal properties.
The market is full of products like tooth paste, chewing gum, breath fresheners, candy and inhalers which have mint as their base element. Most of us are familiar with the refreshing application of mint, but it has far more to offer than that.
Health Benefits of Mint LeavesThe health benefits of mint include the following:
Digestion: Mint is a great appetizer or palate cleanser, and it promotes digestion. It also soothes stomachs in cases of indigestion or inflammation. When you feel sick to your stomach, drinking a cup of mint tea can give you relief. Also, if you are someone who travels long distances via plane or boat, the menthol oil derived from mint can be very soothing for nausea and related motion sickness.
The aroma of mint activates the salivary glands in our mouth as well as glands which secrete digestive enzymes, thereby facilitating digestion. These attributes are why mint is extensively used in the culinary arts. Much of the western world includes mint as a part of appetizers or as an element of palate cleansers, to be eaten before the main course so the food will digest comfortably.
Nausea & Headache: Again, the strong and refreshing aroma of mint is a quick and effective remedy for nausea. Even just the smell of mint oil or freshly crushed mint leaves or the use of any product with mint flavor, and your stomach issues will be alleviated. In fact, many people keep menthol oil or mint-flavored products with them at all time to avoid nausea. Balms with a mint base or basic mint oil, when rubbed on the forehead and nose, gives quick relief in case of headache. Mint is a naturally soothing substance, so it can alleviate the inflammation and temperature rise that is often associated with headaches and migraines.
Respiratory Disorders and Coughs: The strong aroma of mint is very effective in clearing up congestion of the nose, throat, bronchi and lungs, which gives relief for respiratory disorders that often result from asthma and the common cold. As mint cools and soothes the throat, nose and other respiratory channels, it relieves the irritation which causes chronic coughing. This is the main reason why so many balms are based on mint. Unlike the inhalers that are based on aerosols, those with mint as the fundamental component tend to be more effective and eco-friendly as well.
Asthma: Regular use of mint is very beneficial for asthma patients, as it is a good relaxant and relieves congestion. That being said, using too much mint in this way can also irritate the nose and throat.
Breast Feeding: For many women, breastfeeding is a beautiful part of raising a child, but it can seriously damage your breasts and nipples. Studies have shown that mint oil can reduce the nipple cracks and nipple pain that so often accompany breastfeeding.
Depression and Fatigue: Mint is a natural stimulant, and the smell alone can be enough to charge your batteries and get your brain functioning on a high level again. If you are feeling sluggish, anxious, depressed, or simply exhausted, mint and its derivative essential oils can help. It can be ingested, applied topically in a salve form, or inhaled as a vapor, and all of those techniques can give you a much-needed boost! A popular way to get good results in an easy manner is to put a few drops of mint essential oil or menthol oil on your pillow at night and let it work on your body and mind while you sleep.
Skin Care and Pimples: While mint oil is a good antiseptic and anti-pruritic material, mint juice is an excellent skin cleanser. It soothes skin, and helps to cure infections and itchiness, as well as being a good way to reduce pimples, and it can even relieve some of the symptoms of acne. Its anti-pruritic properties can be used for treating insect bites like those of mosquitoes, honeybees, hornets, wasps, and gnats. The cooling sensation will relieve you of the irritating sensation to scratch, and the anti-inflammatory nature of mint will bring down swelling! In that same vein, mint oil is often a basic component of bug repellent products like citronella candles, because the strong aroma is unappealing to most insects.
Memory Loss: A recent study explored the effects that mint has on alertness, retention, and cognitive function. It found that people who frequently use chewing gum, whose major active ingredient is mint, had higher levels of memory retention and mental alertness than those who did not. The stimulant qualities of mint, once again, have shown yet another reason to pop that stick of gum in your mouth, or chew some leaves when you’re feeling less than brilliant!
Weight Loss: Aside from all the other health benefits of mint, it also can help in your efforts to lose weight in a healthy way! Mint is a stimulant, as we’ve already mentioned, but it also stimulates the digestive enzymes that absorb nutrients from food and consume fat and turn it into usable energy. Therefore, by adding mint to your diet, you are increasing the amount of fat that is being consumed and put to use, rather than being stored and contributing to your weight gain!
Female Sterility: There are mixed opinions regarding the role of mint in treating this condition. Some argue that prolonged use of menthol may cause sterility, reducing a woman’s ability to conceive by interfering with the production of ova and killing these gametes. This is due to the germicidal and insecticidal properties of mint, which are beneficial for so many other health concerns. Other research has claimed that men who smoke menthol cigarettes are more likely to suffer from impotency than those who smoke normal cigarettes. It is not certain whether this is due to the tobacco alone or if the mentholated aspect has anything do with it. Another group or researchers suggest that mint may actually be used to treat sterility in females. Suffice to say, a great deal of further research must be done on the effects of mint in both male impotency and female sterility.
Oral Care: Improving the health of a person’s mouth is a well known benefit of mint. Since it has germicidal qualities and quickly freshens breath, it adds to oral health by inhibiting harmful bacterial growth inside the mouth and by cleaning the tongue and teeth. This is why mint used to be rubbed directly on the teeth and gums to refresh the mouth and eliminate dangerous forms of growth. In modern times, for the same reason, mint is one of the most common elements in toothpastes, mouthwashes, and other dental hygiene products. Of course, the easiest way to get these results is to simply chew on the leaves.
Allergies and Hay Fever: Season allergies and hay fever (also known as rhinitis) affect millions of people around the world at certain times of the year. Extracts from mint leaves have been shown to inhibit the release of histamines, which often spur on the severe nasal symptoms that are associated with hay fever and seasonal allergies.
Cancer: Current research shows that certain enzymes that can be found in mint may help prevent and treat cancer.
Info from theHeartySoul.com and OrganicFacts.net