Most Viewed Stories
Crop of the Week: Mint
• Mint is a minor crop in Yuma County with production ranging less than 10 acres. It is a specialty crop that is unavailable in many parts of the nation during the winter months.
• Mint originated in Europe and the Mediterranean. The word mint is derived from the Latin mentha. Long regarded as a symbol of hospitality, it was strewn by the Romans around at feasts and banquets as a welcoming sign to guests.
• There are about 30 species of mint and some say almost 500 varieties, including peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, orange mint, Spanish mint, pineapple mint, ginger mint, mackerel mint, lamb mint, horsemint, lemon mint, pennyroyal, water mint and chocolate mint.
• Mint leaves are used in teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies and ice creams. In Middle Eastern cuisine, mint is used on lamb dishes. In British cuisine, mint sauce is popular with lamb.
• The essential oil of mint contains varying amounts of menthol, which has been shown to have antimicrobial activity. Traditionally, peppermint essential oil has been used to treat indigestion, headaches, colic, gingivitis, irritable bowel syndrome, spasms and rheumatism. Many people believe the strong, sharp flavor and scent of mint can be a mild decongestant for illnesses such as the common cold. During the Middle Ages, powdered mint leaves were used to whiten teeth. Mint tea is a strong diuretic.
• In Rome, Pliny recommended that a wreath of mint was a good thing for students to wear since it was thought to “exhilarate their minds.” Some modern research suggests that he was right.
• Mint is said to be an effective mouse deterrent. The common mints, like spearmint and peppermint, are considered good to grow among tomato and pepper plants, where they enhance flavor, repel aphids, attract parasitic wasps to eat caterpillars and provide a “living mulch” ground cover. Mint leaves are often used by many campers to repel mosquitoes. Mint oil is also used as an environmentally friendly insecticide for its ability to kill some common pests like wasps, hornets, ants and cockroaches.
• Mint is sometimes added to cigarettes because it can block out the bitter taste of tobacco and soothes the throat.
• All mints prefer, and thrive, in cool, moist spots in partial shade but, in general, mints tolerate a wide range of conditions and can also be grown in full sun. Due to their speedy growth, one plant of each desired mint will provide more than enough mint for most home uses.
• Harvesting of mint leaves can be done at anytime. Fresh mint leaves should be used immediately or stored up to a couple of days in plastic bags in a refrigerator. Optionally, mint can be frozen in ice cube trays. Dried mint leaves should be stored in an airtight container placed in a cool, dark, dry area.
• A mint julep is traditionally made of four ingredients: mint, bourbon, sugar and water.
Source: Kurt Nolte is an agriculture agent and Yuma County Cooperative Extension director. He can be reached at email@example.com or 726-3904.