She Was Mint To Be With Him

MintI 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 base 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 smelling”. 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.

28 thoughts on “She Was Mint To Be With Him
  1. cloverann on

    Ahhh, mint. I have a new appreciation for the mint I planted almost 18 years ago: MOJITOS! “If life gives you lemons”….or mint – make mojitos. Especially good with raspberries added. And so pretty.

    [Reply]

  2. jess on

    Our mint patch is one of my earliest memories. I guess it’s a great way to get kids gardening because it’s so impossible to mess up. When my parents sold the home I grew up in, my desperate priority was to take some of those garden memories with me. I was living in a tiny apartment at the time without even a balcony and the little mint struggled. Now after a 3rd very bad infestation, she’s coming back. I can’t wait to put her into the ground so she can take over whatever she wants. I just love that little hoochie mama.

    [Reply]

  3. I simply LOVE your version of Greek mythology…much more interesting that it was back in high school English class…
    And yes, HUGE patch of mint in my parents’ garden while I was growing up (which they somehow managed to tame and eliminate over the past six or so years)

    [Reply]

  4. I remember having a mint patch back in college that would grow like crazy. I knew this when I planted my mint, but I did it anyway. I love it. It is not only tasty, it is pretty to look at. It grows so well here in the desert too! Thanks for doing this post, it gives me some great ideas on what to do with all that mint:)

    [Reply]

  5. Wonderful story. That is why Greek mythology has endured so many millenia. P.S. I had that problem with mint too and ended up pulling it out! It was almost as bad as bind weed.

    [Reply]

  6. I planted some in my Lantana bed. Who do you think will win? LOL
    I love the smell of mint so it would have to really get out of hand to upset me. So far, I have grown it in containers or beds, so I’ve been happy with it. I am really fond of spearmint. It reminds me of the gum, my Grandmother gave me as a child.

    [Reply]

  7. Mint tea – I love the smell of it boiling in my summer kitchen. I love the smell of my hands after wringing out the leaves. I hope my future-children have wonderful summer memories scented with mint =) Thanks for the post.

    [Reply]

  8. Holly on

    I just planted mine last year, so I’m not yet at the “what the hell did I do?” stage. However, whenever we do decide to sell our house, I will try to do so in the early spring before the buyer notices the entire backyard is mint!

    [Reply]

  9. Mim on

    I have a large pot of mint growing on my deck here in Newbury, Ohio. I’m also a Kentucky transplant, so the mint comes inside during the winter, that way it’s always ready for the first Saturday in May.

    [Reply]

  10. anon on

    I have mint growing in a bed surrounded by shade and trees which has kept it confined for the last 12 years! Mojitos and mint jelly ahoy! ;-)

    [Reply]

  11. Enid on

    Why couldnt you be my History teacher? You have a gift to making a tedious story fascinating! Hope you find more plant related mythological stories to tell.

    [Reply]

  12. Jane on

    What a coincidence! I am making taboulla for dinner tonight because somewhere I read that was a good way to use up the excess mint from your garden. We’ve never tried it before but it sounds delicious. I’ve often thought of making mint jelly, but never came up with the right recipe. I have done mint tea (with a little regular tea) and love that.

    [Reply]

  13. gus on

    I used to work at a college. One of my areas included the president’s house. The former resident had planted mint so she could make tea. I referred to it as my bane. When the new boss moved in his wife instructed me to remove it. Praise whatever powers that may be!!

    [Reply]

  14. A lovely story, and one I didn’t know – thank you!

    I let apple mint run, in my dry climate it never becomes a pest, only persists. Alas, peppermint – the worst of them all – took refuge under a sidewalk and regularly sends shoots sprawling into the garden. It’s nice to walk on though!

    [Reply]

  15. Great article, because this really more than a post. You did such a good job. I now have a confession to make. I have two types of mint in my lower garden, and they don’t spread with abandon. I don’t know why, but they’ve been in their same spots for years. Maybe it’s the lack of water.

    Now, mountain mint, on the other hand, makes me curse.~~Dee

    [Reply]

  16. What a great story – the Greeks had an answre fr evrything, didn’t they? I love mint in the garden, BTW, my mouth’s watering just thinking about it.

    [Reply]

  17. Last summer, following the construction of our new barn, we planted our new mint in a plastic bucket and sunk that into the ground, in an attempt to keep the mint within reasonable bounds. (A backhoe on top of the garden is an effective way to kill off mint– and lots more!) That drastic step worked, sort of. Only a few wily strands escaped into the wild.

    This year we transplanted all the mint to the area behind the new barn. Nothing else is planted there and the mint seemed instantly happy. We’ve given it a lot of space so we’ll have to see how long before the mint tries to take over the rest of the yard.

    [Reply]

  18. Faerycat on

    I have chocolate mint growing in my backyard shade bed. It’s somewhat invasive but I just pull it up when it grows somewhere unwanted (the smell is wonderful, I feel like I’m in a big box of girl scout cookies!). Now bishop’s weed — that stuff is INVASIVE! I have no clue where it even came from. I tend to let starts of “what’s this stuff?” grow a bit before I get rid of it in case it’s something interesting. Well, it had pretty flowers, so I let it go. Boy was that a mistake. And the only place it hasn’t been able to take over? You guessed it — the mint patch :) .

    [Reply]

  19. I didn’t know it had a sordid story and love triangle behind it. Now I want to plant some mint.

    [Reply]

  20. I always wondered why I so attracted to minty things. Now I know, a water nymph named Mentha , falling for another married man.

    Very nice writing style. I loved your “Tom, Dick or Hades”. Mythology is so much fun.

    [Reply]

  21. I grew up with a large apple mint patch on the side of the house. Throughout my childhood, summer meant that every pitcher iced tea was brewed with a spring of mint. Now I have a spot where nothing else wants to grow, back behind the shed, and guess what I’m planting there? I need some mint tea. :)

    (juleps and mojitos are pretty good, too)

    [Reply]

  22. When we moved to our new farm, there was Spearmint growing wild right at the entrance of the yard. As annoying as it can be, spreading to all the flower beds and beyond, we are trying to be zen with it. What we cut back, we dehydrate or air dry, then crush and give to friends for tea. So far, it has been a good balance, and the friends LOVE it.

    [Reply]

  23. Paula on

    I’ve actually had some trouble keeping mint as a perennial in my garden, maybe because it’s getting quite shaded by the maple trees. This year it overwintered fairly well and i’ve now got chocolate mint, spearmint, and lemon mint competing with the catmint (catnip). The resident woodchuck has eaten the tops off my catnip plants, but has assisduously avoided the mint plants.

    [Reply]

  24. Wonderful post! Poor Persephone really got the short end of the stick; it’s no wonder she lashed out at Mentha.

    I now have a totally new appreciation for the lovely, untamed mint whose growing habit I’m trying to take advantage of, so a fragrant green border along the path to my cottage will replace the ugly black plastic that separates the path from the anemic lawn.

    [Reply]

  25. I an at war with my lemon mint! What was i THINKING!!!!! great garnish for all the party platters, yes, but now I’m ripping it out by the roots and its resisting, popping up in the oddest places.

    LOVE your mint story. When I was young I found a secret violet patch by the old broken down house on a far end of our property, planted by the original homestead wife I’m sure. Maybe they reminded her of her native England. These were odifera violets- the deep woods violets that had a scent that would intoxicate you-vs the spreading no-scent violets. I have been in love with violets ever since and keep a pot of odifera violets on my front porch. They reward me often in our cool climate. Garden On!

    [Reply]

  26. Mint is also one of the plants you should avoid while breastfeeding as it can decrease your supply. Which is a pity, I have a huge overgrown pot of mint I can’t enjoy right now (except for in small amounts.) Luckily my husband is a big fan of iced mint tea.

    I love how you retold the Greek mint. Never understood why those goddess always took it out on the women their husband’s seduced rather then the husbands though…

    [Reply]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge