- Culinary Varieties of Mint
- Medicinal Varieties of Mint
- Ornamental Varieties of Mint
There are around 600 varieties of mint, however most people are just familiar with the most common kinds which are mint, spearmint and peppermint. Mint is part of the Lamaiceae family that has about 7,200 species including many popular herbs such as thyme, oregano, catnip, sage, basil, lavender and many others. Since mint is the most popular, it is also called the mint family.
Some varieties of mint are quite rare, so it may be a challenge to find seeds or a plant. But if you do find these varieties to grow you will be rewarded with a whole range of smells and flavors. Most varieties have edible leaves and flowers, although a few are ornamental.
Growing mint is quite easy, but since it usually is a vigorous plant it is best to plant it in containers indoors or outdoors.
Culinary Varieties of Mint
Peppermint is the most common type of mint. This is probably due to the fact that it can pretty much grow anywhere unlike other varieties of mint. It can live in humid or dry areas, partial shade or full sun, and rich or wet soils. Make sure to contain this plant as is it a vigorous spreader that grows runners in every direction. This mint grows up to 3 feet in height and has dark green leaves with reddish veins that are slightly fuzzy. When fully mature, it will produce purple to white flowers.
This mint is mostly used for culinary purposes in desserts, candies, teas and drinks… mojitos anyone? Peppermint has a mind sweet and citric taste. It is also used in many beauty and health products.
Spearmint is probably the second most common variety of mint and it is easy to distinguish because of its spear-like leaves which are long and narrow. It has purple, pink or white flowers on slender spikes. Plant it in a container since it spreads out by producing runners and can become invasive. This mint grows up to 2-3 feet in height and grows well in moist and nutritious soil that is well drained and slightly acidic. It can handle higher temperatures and colder areas.
The smell of spearmint is quite pungent, so it is used in the cosmetic industry to make toothpaste, mouthwash, body wash, soaps and creams. Spearmint essential oil and spearmint tea are used for medicinal purposes.
This is the oldest of all varieties of mint, since it has been used for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Egypt. Some historians even say it was the type of mint used in the Bible. Egyptian mint can grow up to 3 feet in height. It is best to plant it in a pot or in the back of the garden, with full or partial sunlight, since it can spread just like other varieties of mint. This mint is used for culinary purposes and teas, as well as a skin toner.
One of the most versatile culinary varieties of mint; English lamb can be used in soups, salads, mint sauce, drinks and vegetable dishes.
Apple mint is one of the sweetest varieties of mint. Making it ideal to use in jams, smoothies, salads or beverages (including tea) because of its fruity aftertaste. This mint plant is usually planted in containers or as an edging plant because it can spread rapidly. It has thick and hairy leaves with white to pale pink flowers. This plant grows between 2-3 feet in height in almost any environment (except very dry areas or in freezing temperatures). Apple mint needs partial sunlight and nutritious soil. Apple mint is a good companion plant for broccoli, tomatoes, peas and cabbage since enhances their flavors.
As it name suggests, this variety of mint (actually peppermint) has an aroma that resembles chocolate. This mint is used for culinary purposes in desserts (use as an ice cream topping), as well as in teas and sweet drinks.
Of all the varieties of mint, chocolate mint is one of the most sought after because it is so unique. Its leaves are relatively small with light green to yellow hue, lavender flowers and the stems are brown. This fast grower can reach two feet in height and should be kept in containers in order to be controlled. Pick an area that has full sunlight with afternoon shade and make sure to keep the soil moist.
Another variety of peppermint that resembles other foods is the grapefruit mint which has a fruity and citrus taste. It is used to flavor meat dishes such as lamb, chicken and fish, as well as fruit desserts and salads. You can dry and store the leaves for a few months.
Grapefruit mint grows upright reaching a height of 2 feet. It produces plenty of leaves which need to be pinched often to encourage thicker growth, otherwise the plant may get laggy. This plant spreads easily, so it should be potted. Unlike other varieties of mint, this specie is very tolerant to cold climates surviving in temperatures as low as 25 F. It just needs partial sunlight, at least four or five hours per day, and nutritious soil.
Has a scent and taste that resembles bananas. This type of mint has bright lime green leaves that have a strong smell that spreads around the garden. Small lilac colored flowers are quite pretty, making it a great border plant which attracts bees. Reproduction must be done from cuttings since it is a hybrid and the seeds may not produce the flavor you expected. Banana mint is mostly used in drinks, desserts, ice cream and fruit salads since it has a banana-like aftertaste.
This type of mint grows well in USDA zones 5-9. It reaches a height of up to 3 feet and needs full sunlight and rich, fertile soil. Many use it as an ornamental plant, however it does have culinary and medicinal benefits. Pineapple mint has anti-inflammatory properties so it is used to treat arthritis. It also helps control acid reflux and gastrointestinal problems. Because of its sweet and citrusy taste, it can be included in jellies, desserts, fruit salads or teas.
Also known as Vietnamese mint, because it is commonly used in meat and chicken dishes in that country. This culinary herb can also be used in teas, drinks like lemonade and fruit salads. Its scent is similar to spearmint but has a subtle ginger smell. Like other varieties of mint this plan is invasive, so best to plant it in a container. It can grow well in full shade, as long as it has fertile and loamy soil.
This is one of the most beautiful varieties of mint, so many grow it for decorative purposes. As it name suggest, this mint has the appearance of lavender with large stalks where purple flowers grow. This is not a creeping mint, it grows up to two feet tall in a hedge or row formation which can be placed in the back for a garden. You can also plant this mint in large, shallow containers. Lavender mint requires a relatively humid and warm environment, with partial to full sunlight. It should be mulched, however it can tolerate a bit of dryness. This type of mint grows well in elevated areas or slopes, as long as it has well-drained soil.
For culinary purposes it can be included in some savory dishes such as pasta, soups and salads. It is also placed in beauty products, such as shampoos, creams and lip balms, and cleaning products because of its aromatherapy properties. Lavender mint is medicinal often consumed in tea.
Licorice mint is one of the tallest varieties of mint, growing up to 4 feet tall. It needs full sunlight, at least 6 hours per day. Soil must be rich and damp, since this mint does not tolerate dry soil. It can grow in USDA zones 5-11. Flowers are white and lavender full of bugs which will attract birds. As the name suggests, leaves are slightly sweet with a mild licorice taste and a citrus small. It is mostly used in ice creams, desserts or fruits, as well as a garnish for meats.
One of the most compact varieties of mint with small, delicate leaves. Strawberry mint has a mild and fruity flavor making it a great addition to summer drinks.
Medicinal Varieties of Mint
Many haven’t heard of calamint since it is native to the United Kingdom, but it can be planted in USDA zones 5-9. This plant can grow between 2-3 feet tall, producing many individual stems from the root that look like grass since it has such a bright green color. Leaves are small and fuzzy with deep veins and thick stalks. Flowers are white or pink and they appear during the summer.
Of all the varieties of mint, this one has one of the highest content of menthol making it ideal for medicinal purposes. Mostly to treat bruises and contusions, as it is very good at reliving muscles. Pregnant women should avoid using this mint. Other people use it to make mint tea or for culinary purposes, replacing thyme or basil.
Most people confuse this plant with catnip, just because of the name, but it does have a compound which gives cats a euphoric feeling. It is also quite effective in repelling insects, which is why it is a great border plant for vegetable gardens. Just make sure to place it in a large pot since it is a vigorous grower like most varieties of mint. This plant grows best in full sunlight, but can tolerate partial shade. It is drought resistant, so it can be grown in sandy or dry soil. This mint can pretty much grow anywhere as long as it is not too cold.
Catmint is used medicinally in teas to calm nerves. It is the main ingredient of many congestion reliving or cough suppressant medicines. Leaves can be added to soup or sauces.
Corn mint is also called field mint and it is native to the United States. This wild mint grows between 6-18 inches. Leaves are bright light green, stems are squared and flowers come in bunches every few inches. This type of mint requires sandy soil that retains moisture and has a lot of nutrients, so it is best to fertilize with compost or fertilizers. Place your plant in an area that receives full sunlight as well as partial shade.
This plant is not used for culinary purposes, it is mostly a medicinal variety of mint. It is used in oils and teas as a relaxing agent. Since it has a lot of menthol, it is very good at alleviating congestion and cough.
Some varieties of mint need more water such as the name suggests. Grow water mint in poorly drained areas like next to a pond, river or a meadow that has very high humidity. Make sure you have enough space outdoors since it grows fast through runners, otherwise plant it in a container. Water mint needs soil that is slightly acidic to loamy. This mint is not tolerant to cold, so it is best to plant it in USDA zones 8-11. It has pretty blue and purple pompom shaped flowers that are attractive to pollinators, beneficial insects and butterflies.
Water mint is not really used for culinary purposes, since it is best known as a medicinal plant. Dried leaves can be included in potpourri for aromatherapy. Crush fresh leaves and apply them to wounds to fight off bacteria or use it in a balm to relieve sore muscles.
Of all the varieties of mint this one has one of the strongest flavors. It is a creeping plant, with tiny leaves and pale blue or lavender flowers, that can be used as an alternative for grass. Since it spreads so easily, many people prefer to plant it in containers. This mint grows between 6-12 inches in height, without making shrubs. Pennyroyal grows particularly well in damp, shady condition as it loves moisture. Plant it in moist, loamy soil that it slightly acidic. And make sure that it has full sun and warm weather.
Pennyroyal was used since Ancient Rome when it was a culinary herb that was often combined with oregano and coriander (cilantro). Now it is considered a medicinal mint that can alleviate gastrointestinal conditions such as hemorrhoids and constipation when used in teas. Use it topically to alleviate pain, skin conditions and toothaches. Its high oil content also makes it a great insect repellent so make sure to include it in your vegetable garden.
Corsican mint is the smallest of all varieties of mint. This plant is native to Corsica and is a low-growing, creeping mint with small, oval shaped bright green leaves. It is used as a bedding or border plant since you can step on it without killing it. Just be careful when planting it as it is super invasive. Try not to overwater the plant as it may rot. Small purple flowers attract pollinators.
This type of mint is mostly used for medicinal purposes since it is an antiseptic and can relieve flatulence. Corsican mint is used to flavor creme de menthe. Leaves emit a strong smell when crushed so it is a good companion plant for cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower since it can help repel their pests.
Ornamental Varieties of Mint
The scientific name of Buddleia mint is mentha longigolia because of its long and purple flowers which are rich in nectar. This ornamental plant has beautiful silvery foliage. Leaves have a musty mint scent, but it is not used for culinary purposes.
This creeping variety of spearmint has frilled leaves with a swirled appearance. It is usually an ornamental variety which grows less than 3 feet in height. Like other varieties of mint it requires humid environments, however it can also grow in partially dry areas as long as it has enough moisture and nutritious soil.
This mint has a strong peppermint flavor, but it is not really used much for culinary purposes. Curly mint has strong stems which are used to stir and give flavor to cocktails. Leaves are used to garnish dishes and desserts.
Horsemint is also known as Lemon Beebalm because of its intense scent that tastes more like lemon than mint. It can be added to alcoholic beverages, desserts, chicken and fish, however it is not really a culinary herb. Its flavor is quite pleasant when brewed as a hot or cold tea which has medicinal benefits.
This is one of the most unique and pretties ornamental varieties of mint since it grows up to 4 feet in height. Flower spikes are lilac, red or pale pink and it has larger leaves than most mints. It is quite easy to grow since it tolerates drought better than most varieties of mint and grows well in poor soil, even heavy in clay. Plant in full sunlight and trim frequently, otherwise it may take over your garden.