Garden Obsession: Fruit-Flavored Mints

Garden Obsession: Fruit-Flavored Mints

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PHOTO: Jim, the Photographer/Flickr

This past summer, I’ve been working at a production greenhouse, where I help grow 35 different varieties of culinary herb. Needless to say, my palate has been tickled with all sorts of new and interesting herbal flavors, some of the most interesting of which have been mints.

The mint family (Lamiaceae) includes obvious plants, like spearmint and peppermint, as well as some of your other favorite herbs, like basil, thyme, rosemary and lavender. Within this family, the genus Mentha—what most of us think of as “mint proper”—includes between 13 and 18 species that readily hybridize with one another.

As summer winds down and fruits are being harvested, fruity-flavored mints make a refreshing addition to everything from ice-cold drinks to savory hot dishes. With a few exceptions, most are perennial, so autumn is a good time to scope out sales in garden centers and plant mint for next year. A word to the wise, however: Most mints spread laterally and form clonal patches, so keep them in a container unless you are looking for an aggressive ground cover.

Here are some of my favorite fruit-flavored mints you might try growing.

Apple Mint, aka Pineapple Mint (Mentha suaveolens)

This mint has wooly leaves, and also comes in variegated cultivars: a variety with white-bordered leaves is usually called pineapple mint.

Banana Mint (Mentha arvensis ‘Banana’)

Banana mint smells more like concentrated banana flavoring–isoamyl acetate–than most bananas. It has a creeping form and is more or less constantly in bloom during the growing season.

Ginger Mint (Mentha x gracilis)

While not “fruity” per se, ginger mint pairs well with fruity mints in adding a little spicy spearmint-like element to the mix.

Grapefruit Mint (Mentha x piperita ‘Grapefruit’)

The pink-tinged leaves on this upright-growing mint smell and taste unmistakable of zesty citrus. It’s a hybrid derived from pineapple mint.

Hillary’s Sweet Lemon Mint (Mentha x dulcia citreus ‘Hillary’s’)

A hybrid of apple mint and lime mint developed in 1993 and named for Hillary Clinton, this downy-leaved plant packs a surprisingly potent lemon flavor.

Orange Mint, aka Bergamot Mint (Mentha x piperita citrata)

As the two names for this mint hybrid would suggest, it smells and tastes somewhere in between a fresh orange and a cup of Earl Grey tea.

Strawberry Mint, aka Mojito Mint (Mentha x piperita var. citrata ‘Strawberry’)

It’s sometimes uncanny how closely plant compounds can resemble each other: like banana mint, strawberry mint smells unbelievably similar to it’s namesake.



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