Tashkent mint

Mentha spicata ‘Tashkent’

Words & Pictures: Jekka McVicar

Without doubt, after 30 years of herb cultivation, this is my favourite culinary mint. It is the one I have chosen to have outside my back door. I use it to make salad dressings, mint sauce, raita, with peas, new potatoes, strawberries, in hot and cold drinks and it makes the best Margarita!

Height: 80cm, purple /mauve flowers from summer until autumn. Mid green oval serrated, textured spearmint scented leaves.

Atlas mountain mint

Mentha suaveolens subsp. timija

Words & Pictures: Jekka McVicar

A cousin of the apple mint with a neat compact habit. This mint comes into its own when cooked, lovely in apple jelly or chopped and cooked with apple sauce. It is ideal for combining with other mints and herbs to make teas and tisanes. As this mint comes from a mountainous area, plant in a well-drained soil.

Height: 60cm, white flowers from summer until autumn. Small oval hairy, grey green leaves.

Spearmint, garden mint

Mentha spicata

Words & Pictures: Jekka McVicar

This is the traditional, grandmother’s mint, the one everyone remembers from their childhood. It is used with peas and potatoes. Sadly it is now very prone to mint rust. This can be controlled by sterlising the roots in hot water. Alternatively, as soon as you see the leaves dropping, pick them up from the soil and bin, (do not compost). Next, cut the plants back hard – they will recover very quickly with lush new growth.

Height: 60cm, purple /mauve flowers from summer until autumn. Mid green oval, serrated, spearmint scented leaves.

Silver mint

Mentha longifolia silver-leaved

Words & Pictures: Jekka McVicar

This is a beautiful mint which, although not great in the kitchen, comes into its own in the garden or in a very large container. The leaves are so soft and downy and the new growth in spring is quite beautiful. The flowers are loved by bees and look great in flower arrangements.

Height: 60cm, pale mauve flowers from summer until autumn. Soft, downy lance shaped, silver leaves which have a light mint scent.

Pineapple mint

Mentha suaveolens ‘Variegata’

Words & Pictures: Jekka McVicar

If you have the space in your garden this is a most attractive mint for borders, especially if planted in light shade, as this increases the dappled effect.

It also is also lovely when grown in containers with other herbs such as purple sage or bronze fennel. In the kitchen the mild flavoured leaves are good with many vegetable dishes.

Height: 50cm, white flowers from summer until autumn. Oval variegated cream and green leaves which are lightly scented and flavoured.

Lavender mint

Mentha lavender mint

Words & Pictures: Jekka McVicar

The leaves of this mint have a wonderful mint lavender scent. Pick a generous bunch of leaves, tie them up with string then hang them under the hot tap as you run a bath. The water and room will be filled with the scent of the leaves. In the kitchen crush the leaves with sugar, then use the sugar to make shortbread.

Height 80cm, pink /mauve flowers from summer until autumn. Large roundish, purple and orange tinged, mid green leaves with a definite lavender scent.

Japanese mint

Mentha arvensis var. piperascens

Words & Pictures: Jekka McVicar

The leaves of this mint are not only highly peppermint scented they are also very high in oil and used in many medicinal compounds.

This is the one you want to use if you have a head cold. Throw a large handful of leaves into a bowl of hot water, cover your head with a towel and inhale the peppermint scented steam. It really does help to clear your head!

Height: 60cm, whorls of pale lilac flowers from summer until autumn. Bright green, round, peppermint scented leaves.

Hart's Pennyroyal

Mentha cervina

Words & Pictures: Jekka McVicar

This European mint is ideal for growing at the margins of a pond as it loves wet, damp soil. Traditionally it was used as a medicine and it is still a useful insect and flea repellent. Rub the leaves onto a horsefly bite to ease the pain or rub on exposed skin to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes.

Height: 30cm, attractive clusters of purple /mauve flowers from summer until autumn. Narrow mid green, small peppermint scented leaves.

Ginger mint

Mentha x gracilis ‘Variegata’

Words & Pictures: Jekka McVicar

The leaves have a lovely warm minty flavour which make them great in both tomato and green salads, where they make lettuce look a picture. This mint makes a good alternative to the spearmint varieties so can be used with sweet and savory dishes.

Height: 50cm, mauve flowers from summer until autumn. Attractive green and yellow/gold variegated, oval, pointed leaves that have a good mint scent and flavour.

Desert mint

Mentha longifolia subsp. schimperii

Words & Pictures: Jekka McVicar

This is a very different mint to most. It originates from arid countries so likes a very well-drained soil. Indeed it hates our wet winters so will need protecting.

Throughout the Middle East it is combined with black tea to make the very sweet mint tea that is frequently drunk in the bars, bazaars and cafes.

Height: 90cm, clusters of very pale mauve virtually white flowers in summer. Strongly peppermint scented long narrow grey green leaves.

Curly mint

Mentha spicata var. crispa

Words & Pictures: Jekka McVicar

Curly mint has a good spearmint flavour so is ideal for adding to salads, both green and fruit, and for making mint sauce. It also looks great in flower arrangements as the leaves add texture.

Height: 60cm, lilac/pink flowers from summer until autumn. The bright green crisp, curled leaves have a clean spearmint flavour.

Chocolate peppermint

Mentha x piperita f. citrata ‘Chocolate’

Words & Pictures: Jekka McVicar

The leaves of this mint not only make a wonderful tisane they can also transform a chocolate mousse into a gastronomic delight. A very attractive mint that looks great in the garden as the dark stems make the green leaves appear greener.

Height: 45cm, purple /mauve flowers from summer until autumn. Strongly peppermint with notes of chocolate, dark brown, oval pointed toothed leaves.

Buddleia mint

Mentha longifolia Buddleia Mint Group

Words & Pictures: Jekka McVicar

This is not, in my opinion, a culinary mint as the flavour of the leaves is dull, it looks wonderful if allowed to meander through a border, which it will do with gusto. The long flower spikes are always covered with butterflies and hoverflies. It lasts well in flower arrangements.

Height up to 85cm, long spikes of mauve flowers from summer until autumn. Long grey, green toothed leaves.

Bowles mint

Mentha x villosa var. alopecuroides ‘Bowles Mint’

Words & Pictures: Jekka McVicar

This is a large vigorous mint, not one to be let loose in the garden, unless you have a lot of space, as it can be rampant. It is considered by many to be best for the kitchen as it does not lose its flavour when cooked. This makes it ideal for mint sauce, mint jellies and many other dishes.

Height: up to 1m, pale mauve flowers from summer until autumn. Large round mid green hairy soft leaves.

Berries and cream mint

Mentha ‘Berries and Cream’

Words & Pictures: Jekka McVicar

If you close your eyes, rub the leaf, then smell your fingers, it is astonishing how nature captures the scent of berries and cream!

This is a most attractive mint. The leaves have colour and texture and they can be used to make wonderful syrups for use with fruit dishes and or cocktails. They also look great chopped and scattered over a green salad.

Height: 60cm, tight clusters of mauve flowers from summer until autumn. Dark green peppermint, fruity scented leaves.

Basil mint

Mentha x piperita f. citrata ‘Basil’

Words & Pictures: Jekka McVicar

Mint is a first cousin of basil, so it is not surprising that many basils have a mint note in their flavour. This mint makes a wonderful substitute for basil in the spring and it goes extremely well in tomato sauces, tomato soup or try chopping it up with garlic and throwing into pasta.

Height: 65cm, spikes of light purple flowers from summer until autumn. Oval, shiny, mid green peppermint and basil scented leaves.

Banana mint

Mentha arvensis ‘Banana’

Words & Pictures: Jekka McVicar

The scent of the leaves is amazing, it really does smell of bananas mixed with mint. This mint has a sprawling habit that makes it ideal for growing in containers as it will cascade over the rim. It also looks most attractive when grown in a hanging basket.

I have to admit that I have found it a bit difficult in the kitchen! The most success has been using it in a syrup.

Height: 45cm, whorls of pale lilac flowers from summer until autumn. Bright green small, slightly hairy leaves .