I sometimes wonder how many people in the world have a memory of mint that goes something like this…
In my parent’s yard, there was a wild spot. It seemed that no amount of weed wacking, weed pulling or weed killer would eliminate it. My mother often cursed at it, vowing to burn it out (with napalm if necessary). Why my mother hated it, I never knew at the time.
As far as I was concerned, it was a wonderful plant. My siblings and I were given full permission to nibble as we liked, and, like little menthol addicted bunnies, nibble we did. We would pull mint stalks out by the fistful and chew on them like we were miniature cowboys with cheeks full of green chaw.
Which is how I remember my parent’s overgrown mint patch. Now, my own children are developing a similar memory and I am considering napalm.
Mint is possibly one of the most invasive plants you can voluntarily put in your garden. It is extremely difficult to keep in its bounds but such a tasty addition to an herb garden that most people are willing to risk it. In my own garden, I believe that the previous owner naivety lead her to plant the mint Free Bird style.
Mint is an herb that is used in all kinds of foods from pestos to teas to desserts. Historically, it has also been used as a medicinal herb. It is used as both an appetite suppressant and stimulant. It was also used to ease arthritis, digestive problems and anxiety. At one point in time, it was even reputed to cure the ever incurable hiccups.
The Latin name for mint is mentha and refers to roughly 30 different baseÂ species of the plant (100s of varieties, though). Chances are, you have heard of Peppermint and Spearmint, but there are also varieties like apple mint, chocolate mint, ginger mint and Kentucky Colonel mint, that without you cannot acceptably watch a horse race in Kentucky as it is the mint traditionally used in mint juleps. These are just a few of the many mint varieties you can grow in your garden.
The myth behind the origins of the name Mentha reads better than an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Greek myth has it that Mentha was the name of a misguided and lovestruck water nymph who went head over flippers for an older, married man. He was a tall dark mysterious type who had a lot of power in his hands and used his power to woo the soon-not-to-be innocent young maid. She was willing to overlook the fact that he was a little creepy, being the overlord of the underworld. After all, a man is not his job, right?
Tragedy struck when his wife, Persephone, (who, for the record, was a woman who was suffering from Stockholm syndrome) found out about the tawdry relationship. She took her wrath out on the poor little nymph. She transformed Mentha into a lowly plant. She did nothing to her husband for his trespass. Apparently, it was punishment enough for her husband that he lost his hoochie mama. So what does the Mr. Wonderful do to correct his mistress’ situation? He makes it so she is “sweet smellingâ€. Yeah, thanks. That was helpful.
Either way, Mentha was fated to grow as she had lived. A plant that is loose and fast and gets walked on, picked up, chewed up and spit out by whatever Tom, Dick and Hades that happens to notice her. I think this is what they call a morality tale.
While I find my mint frustrating and exasperating, a small part of me leaps for joy when I see my boys ripping whole mint plants out of the back of the garden. I know they won’t be able to ever truly get rid of it and it serves as a reminder that mint is a plant that lives on eternally in both our gardens and memories.