mintMint is one of the pretty, low-growing plants. Mint grows well in wet, shady places where nothing else will grow. And while the flowers are generally not flashy, they do add lacy pastel highlights to the summer garden and attract beneficial insects.

Mint’s medicinal properties have been chronicled for centu­ries, and its usefulness in the kitchen is reflected in the fact that cookbooks of ancient Rome contained mint recipes. In houses and temples of those times, mint leaves were strewn over the floors to freshen the air as people walked.

The Spanish name for mint, yerba buena, means the “good herb.” Mint effectively calms the stomach and aids digestion (after-dinner mint, anyone?). It calms nerves, too, and is used in compresses for the relief of skin and joint problems, as well as for headaches and sore eyes.

Peppermint and spearmint,  apple mint and chocolate mint, curly mint and creeping mint and long-stemmed mint and there are a dozen main mint species and hundreds of hybrids. Sizes range from only a few inches high to some two feet or more.

All these members of the genus Mentha have square stems as a distinguishing characteristic.

They also have a tendency to “run,” so unless you have room for the mint to naturalize, plan early to contain the plants in sunken boxes or pots.

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