Half a Hundred Herbs – Week 15 – Mint
This is a new peppermint plant I bought in the winter. It served its time on the windowsill, and then got greenfly. I have biblical proportions of greenfly in the garden and greenhouse this year, which all the bluetits, wrens and ladybirds I can coax into my garden are not shifting. I cut the affected stems down and put the mint into the greenhouse to cool off, and now it is hardening off outside before I pot it up somewhere.
This is not so straightforward as it might sound. Received wisdom has it that you put your mint into a large pot and sink the pot in a bed somewhere to prevent the roots rampaging at will through everything. But all the mint in my garden has bother with rust, a soil-borne fungus which severely limits the performance of the plant. I’m looking for a quiet place for it, with deep, rich, slightly moist soil, well away from anything that might already be infected, and if it thrives, I’ll propagate from it by root cuttings and try and get some good healthy plants. If it doesn’t, however, I have a reference from the Permaculture magazine for herbal teas for plants, which will deal with fungus diseases, made from horsetail and calendula. I’m going to try to keep on top of both rusts and black spot this way, and I’ll let you know how it turns out.
There are many varieties of mint, but they tend to get muddled up through time. I know I have apple mint, a vigorous downy plant with a fresh light taste, (good for putting in the pot if you’re boiling potatoes and peas) peppermint, (good for tea) spearmint for mint sauce, and what I believe to be eau-de cologne mint – a mint with an aromatic scent which is especially good for pot pourris. I had ginger mint too, a pretty sparky one which is variegated with yellow, and pineapple mint which has white blotches on it, but they are less hardy than the average, and succumbed to the -12C we had a couple of winters back. Jekka McVicar lists a lot more, but until I deal with the rust problem, I’ll have to do without.
At the start of this project I wondered about an anthology of herb poems, but rapidly became discouraged, as there don’t seem to be many. However, as i go along I am becoming aware of quite a few good ones. The most recent are Violet by Anna Crowe, and Meadowsweet by Kathleen Jamie. I’d be really interested to hear of any more you may have come across. Leave a comment, if you would like to, or contact me via the facebook page. Thanks!