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Mints can fit right in here

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columns Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Mentha, also known as mint, from the Greek word mintha, is a genus of plants in the family Lamiaceae.

Mints are aromatic, almost always perennial, rarely annual, herbs. They have wide-spreading underground and over-ground stolons and erect, square stems. Leaf colors range from dark green and gray-green to purple, blue and sometimes pale yellow. The flowers are white to purple. The fruit is a nutlet, containing one to four seeds. While the species (mentha genus) are widely distributed and can be found in many environments, most grow best in wet environments and moist soils. In my heavy clay with poor drainage, my many "flavors" of mint are the only herb thriving in my designated herb, raised bed box. Because of mint's tendency to spread unchecked, some are considered invasive. By summer's end, if the rains continue, I will have

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LOTS to share, dry, or freeze in ice cubes.

All mints thrive near pools of water, lakes, rivers and cool moist spots in partial shade. In general, mints tolerate a wide range of conditions, and can also be in full sun. Care should be taken when mixing any mint with other plants, lest the mint take over. They do well in tubs, barrels and large pots. I've planted my Walker Low Mint in a large pot and overwintered it by burying the pot, mulching it well. It is blooming nicely now.

Mints are supposed to make good companion plants, repelling pesty insects and attracting beneficial ones. They are susceptible to whitefly and aphids. Bees love mint flowers and my herb box will buzz once flowers develop later this month. Harvesting of mint leaves can be done at any time. Fresh leaves should be used immediately or stored, up to a few days in plastic bags in the refrigerator. The leaf, fresh or dried, is the culinary source of mint. The leaves have a warm, fresh, aromatic, sweet flavor with a cool aftertaste, and are used in teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies and ice cream.

Mint was originally used as a medicinal herb to treat stomach aches and chest pains. Menthol and mint essential oils are also much used in medicine as component of many drugs and are very popular in aromatherapy. Mint oil can be found in environmentally friendly insecticides for its ability to kill some common pests such as wasps, hornets, ants and cockroaches.

All of my mints from chocolate to pineapple are thriving and I look forward to adding a sprig to iced tea this summer, or to dress up a summer salad, vegetable or other entree.

Refer to the revamped and updated University Of Minnesota Extension Service website

www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden for more information on horticultural topics.

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