Add Mint to Your Summer Table

A pretty and delightful touch in the garden and kitchen

Credit: Paul Debois, Friedrich Strauss, Premium Stock/GAP Photos; iStock

This prolific herb adds a pretty and delightful touch to the garden and kitchen

Rumour has it that Mentha was named for a flirtatious Greek nymph who couldn’t keep her hands off Pluto, God of the Underworld. His jealous wife, Proserpine, turned poor Minthe into a herb and – adding insult to injury – blessed her leaves with a fragrant oil that would waft … when trampled.

This may be why we associate the icy-cool flavouring with carefree summer indulgences: mint juleps, mojitos and chocolate-chip mint ice cream. And there are even more delicious ways to drop mint into your daily life:


1. Fresh mint leaves make even basic lemonade or iced tea look oh-so-sophisticated, and you can also freeze into ice cubes. Pour boiling water over leaves (whole or chopped) in the trays to release more flavour, but be prepared for leaves to look wilty. For a fresh-picked appearance, cover with cold water instead.

2. Mint and chocolate are one of the world’s greatest partnerships. Add 125 mL (½ cup) minced leaves to your usual cupcake, chocolate-chip cookie or brownie recipe. Or try one of the many recipes for mint fudge available online. Since a little goes a long way in terms of flavour, some cooks recommend the more pungent peppermint varieties for baking and teas only, and advise sticking with the milder spearmints for potato salads, garnishes and savoury sauces.

3. Tuck fresh mint, lavender and marigolds into clear shot glasses half-filled with water for elegant but inexpensive centrepieces the next time you’re hosting a shower or just-for-fun tea party. Pick up glasses by the carload from second-hand shops and garage sales.

4. Gather your favourite fresh herbs together in one handy planter close to the kitchen. Mint smells heavenly nestled in with thyme, rosemary, oregano and alliums. Use a rustic basket that will look great on the back porch or as a centrepiece on the brunch table.


how to use mint in your kitchen and garden

Harvest in the morning after the dew has passed for the greatest concentration of oils, and hang upside down in bundles to dry.

Mint, much like its capricious Greek namesake, cannot keep itself to itself. A very strong grower, it spreads quickly via runners and will choke out other plants if allowed. Planting in containers is best, but if you want to plant in beds, bury a bottomless pot in the ground with an inch-high lip above soil, and tuck herbs into the centre.