Think you don’t have a green thumb? I bet you can grow mint. It’s one of the easiest plants to grow, and hardest to kill, which can be a good thing or a bad thing.

Mint can be quite invasive, so be very careful when planting it. I highly recommend keeping it contained in a pot with no other plants. Mint will bully any surrounding plants and eventually take over. Especially if you put it in the ground.

I had a planter filled with mint last year, and though I had been warned, I decided to plant a little in the ground. Rookie mistake.

I thought I could avoid the invasion by planting it in this area (aka “where plants go to die”) where the soil is “filler dirt” made of thick clay with no nutrients. Plus 6-8 hours full sun >98 degrees (it gets hot here in NC)… it’s a tough growing environment. I’ve seen many plants bite the big one.

Small mint plant bordering the bushes

I thought the thick clay would keep it contained. Like its very own clay pot, right? Wrong. Here’s what I’m dealing with this year:

Surprise! Look what’s been hiding behind the bushes.  That is NOT where I planted it.

The mint is back with a vengeance! Where no plant has grown before! It crossed over one of the bushes, it’s taking the inside! It’s even starting to spread laterally, it’s moving next door,  it’s growing, it’s growing…

Oops! I hope the neighbors like mojitos.

On a good note, look at all this mint I have now. And I like mint. No, I’m not just saying that because it has me surrounded. Here’s what mint can do for you:

Mojitos

The whole reason I started growing this plant in the first place. I love mojitos. They are my favorite cocktail of all time.

Ever noticed that mint is very expensive in the grocery store? This just kills me. We’ve all seen how easy it is to grow. And grow, and grow…

Here’s a basic mojito recipe:

  • 5-10 mint leaves plus a couple sprigs for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons mint infused simple syrup (see below)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (not store bought) plus 2 wedges for garnish
  • Ice cubes
  • 2 ounces rum (see my note below)
  • 1/2 cup club soda (approx)

First make the simple syrup: Mix 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar in a saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Then let it steep with a handfull of mint leaves for an hour or so. Strain out the leaves and store in the fridge till you’re ready to use it.

If you’re in a hurry you can skip this step, just add about 1 tbsp sugar to lime juice. But you’re going to need to muddle the hell out of that mint: (Add about 5 mint leaves to a cup of ice, get your muddler, and muddle away. Muddling releases the essence of the mint).

About the rum; most recipes call for white rum. However, I was once schooled that to make a real Cuban mojito, you need dark rum (not spiced) made with sugar cane, such as Havana Club 9. It really gives the drink a richer flavor. But I don’t turn down mojitos made with white rum. Use what you like. Experiment.

Making the drink:

2 tablespoons of mint simple syrup + 3 tablespoons fresh lime + 2 ounces rum + muddled mint and ice cubes in a shaker. This is the part where I shake what my grandmother gave me. 😉 Seriously. This bar set belonged to her.

Pour shaken drink into glass and top with club soda. Lightly stir, adding lime wedges and mint sprigs for garnish.

Fancy Ice Cubes

They’re not just for mojitos anymore! Give any beverage a refreshing kick with a mint ice cube.

Now that’s a tall drink of water.

You don’t need directions for this one. Also use this trick with lemons, as I’ve done here. Or oranges. Really any fruit works. But I don’t have fruit growing and taking over my back yard, so work with me here…

Aromatic Arrangements

My roses are between bloom cycles, so I thought I’d try a different arrangement.

It’s a cute, fresh way to bring the outdoors in. An added bonus: it smells really good. I keep it in the kitchen, but as soon as I walk in the door I can smell the sweet aroma. Mint is really fragrant, but not overpowering. It’s used in many creams and lotions and is said to have relaxing benefits.

Mint Julep

How can I not talk about mint juleps when it’s Kentucky Derby time!?

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • Sprigs of fresh mint
  • Crushed ice
  • Whiskey

Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Whiskey. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. Drink tastes best if you’re wearing a fancy hat.

Other uses I have not tried yet are relaxing mint tea, mint in cooking and salads. Actually, I did try the cooking one but that was a FAIL.

Mint can also be used as a garnish for desserts, especially chocolate

Or chew on a sprig to freshen your breath:

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And mint is not toxic to cats. Catnip is actually from the mint family. Those aromatic arrangements are seen as “edible arrangements,” so make sure they are in a safe place where kitty won’t tip the vases over.

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