When Good Mint Goes Too Far

You may have heard that mint is best planted in containers; that if left uncontained, it goes invasive.  Let me show you what mint will do when left to its own minty devices!

This is the flagstone pathway I built, OK placed, a few years back.  I love it because it lets me walk barefoot into the garden 20 times a day.  There’s no cement underlay, just fabric underneath that’s supposed to keep weeds at bay.  As you can see, that fabric is no match for mint.

the path overtaken... by mint. and black eyed susan vine. and even some chives.
the path overtaken by mint. and black-eyed susan vine. and chives…

The greenery here is “apple” mint — a sweetish, slightly fruity-tasting, fuzzy variety — a wonderful mint, but one which I never meant to plant anywhere near this area — yet here it is, doing it’s best to take the place over.  There’s some black-eyed susan vine in there too — see the pretty pink flowers?  Also invasive!  Plant one vine, and each of the many lovely flowers it drops will produce very viable seeds.  Perfect if you’re looking to cover a back fence, but a real pain in the middle of the garden.

So what prompted this mint situation?  A few years ago, the grapevine now gracing our trellis shared a half-barrel container with a variety of herbs, among them — you guessed it — my favorite apple mint.  When the grapevine failed to thrive in its container, I replanted it at the base of the trellis, taking great care (ha!) to remove any tiny bits of mint roots that were intertwined in the grape roots.  So much for “great care”, because some tiny bit of root did in fact get planted, and though I did make some (fairly feeble) efforts to pull out the mint as it grew and multiplied, eventually those roots found their way into the fertile soil under the flagstones (probably the best soil in the whole garden, since that’s where the earthworms hang out).  The march of the mint was on!

one little, two little, three little mint tips... leads to four little, five little, six little mint tips!
one little, two little, three little mint sprouts… leads to four little, five little, six little mint sprouts!

So, we’ve got a case of invasive mint.  It’s growing fast; but since I’m the one who has to deal with it, it’s not going anywhere fast.  Having a mint forest underfoot kind of annoys my accountant husband, who like to see his flagstones-and-pebbles neatly in rows.  I’m more willing to accept, and want to work with, a garden that’s a bit out-of-control.  It’s boring being in control all the time, and frustrating trying to be in control all the time.  So, I just pull out mint that is growing too far (it will NOT be allowed into the garden beds!), and cut off the sprouts when they get too tall.

The absolute upside of growing mint over a sizable distance is the proliferation of mint “tips”.  They’re the best part of the mint; the newest, prettiest leaves, perfect for eating or as garnish.

Our Pippa is a mint-tip connoisseur. Only the freshest and finest of leaves will do.
Our Pippa is a mint-tip connoisseur. Only the freshest and finest of leaves will do.
lemonade
lemonade “with benefits”!

A glass of delicious homegrown mint-enhanced lemonade is just the thing after a morning spent managing mint!  Find my (extremely locally) famous recipe for Apple-Mint Lemonade here.

Take a leaf out of mint’s book, and

Grow Where You Are Planted.

: )     Jen.

Lemonade “With Benefits”: Mint, Kale and Spinach

We just got back from a HOT weekend in the desert — easily 110 degrees in the shade.  Such weather calls for lemonade, and lots of it!  I’m calling this twist on a hot-weather classic “Lemonade With Benefits” because it brings a healthy dose of garden-fresh greens to a classic summer treat.  No one has to know this lemonade is spiked with kale, spinach, etc. — they’ll see the bright and beautiful green color, but all they’ll taste is lemon, bright sugar, and a hint of mint!  Here’s how it’s (quickly and easily) done:

Lemonade “With Benefits”

Toss into high speed blender (i.e. Vitamix):

6 tbsp. lemon juice (approximately 1/3 cup)

1/2 cup young, tender leaves of kale, spinach, or chard

1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)

Handful of mint leaves

Fill blender to 4 cups line with ice.  Add water until level reaches 5 cups.

Blend on high speed until all ingredients are thoroughly blended, and enjoy.  Makes 5 cups of ice cold, sweet/tart, green lemonade!

A few notes.  The ice is crucial in this recipe.  It provides grit to help break down the greenery into drinkable, not-the-least-bit noticeable bits.  Also, a powerful blender (I use a Vitamix) is key.  It breaks the sugar down so thoroughly, there’s no need to make a simple syrup, as would be required in a standard lemonade recipe.  Finally, don’t skip the mint, unless you want to taste the vegetables in your lemonade.  Which would be pretty hard-core.

You can try other sweeteners in place of the sugar.  For me, the clean, bright, old-fashioned flavor of sugar is unbeatable.  Stevia would be an interesting substitute (homegrown stevia would be a dream!)  Also, feel free to reduce or increase the amount of sugar to suit your taste.

Lemonade with benefits!  Enjoy!  (Oh and enjoying watching even vegetable-averse kids drink up kale, spinach and chard with green-tinged smiles on their face — I know I do!)

— Jen.