Growing your own food is an ambitious project, especially for an urban household, living in apartments or cramped spaces. Pots and planters in balconies, terrace, in kitchen counters, window sills, growing plants is a primordial urge that needs no physical space but a propelling interest. So let’s take a look at Mint. Take the stalks of mint, that is store bought, shorn off leaves and stick them in a pot, spraying just enough water and enabling just enough sunlight and Bingo!
Pudina is how we know it in India. Pudina (Mint) and (coriander) Dhaniya are the two herbs, widely used around India, across states. It is a favoured herb for both the vegetarians and non-vegetarians. It is used through the year for both medicinal and culinary purposes. It is anecdotally used as a cure for flu, fevers, stomach cramps, and as a digestive. The aromatic herb is calming, cooling, uplifting and adds its green hue to any dish it is added to.
Just as we belong to a family, Mint or Mentha is a genus of plants belonging to a family of plants called Lamiaceae. There are about 24 species of mint. The one that we use in India, is closest to spearmint. It's green crinkly leaves is milder than peppermint and has a pleasant scent. It has been researched as a cure for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It is also called Lamb mint because of its use in lamb dishes. The menthol content is what gives mint its pungency and anti- microbial properties.
Mint grows like a weed and is best grown in pots and planters as it can take over a space uncontrollably. They flourish as you harvest or trim them. To say, that they can be a ready herb factory right at home would not an exaggeration. Keep trimming and pruning mint ideally leaving about 10 cms in pots or about 30 cms on ground. When the mint flowers, the growth is slow, hence the need for trimming.
When it rains, it pours! When mint flourishes in your garden, you have a lot in your hands. This pushes you to find unique uses for it. Start by using them in green tea. Mint is touted as a muscle relaxant and does wonders to the period cramps or the occasional leg cramps that can leave you hapless.
Crush them into paste with apple cider vinegar and store them in glass jars for months to be used as marinades for meat/ paneer and in curries. Their use in chutneys and salads needs no mention.
Make mint squash, mint lemonade, mint lassi for summers. For the cold weather they go right into soups, curries, biryanis and all the non vegetarian dishes. Find use for them in (curd dip) pachadis, cold cucumber soups, in buttermilk, the possibilities are endless.
You could make mint oil to use them in salads. Use your imagination and you will find more uses.
The mint, has it's adversaries too. Aphids, mealybugs, grasshoppers, love to chew on them. Pesticidal spray is to be absolutely avoided. Instead keep a watchful eye. Avoid the spread by nipping, changing pots or moving them away from other infected plants nearby. Or just start afresh.
Dried mint leaves are an excellent way to extend it's use and lifecycle. Wash and pat dry, spread it on a tray and put them in warm oven or sunlight or leave them in the refrigerator to completely dry out. Crush them lightly and store them and use them in breads, pasta, and paratha.
The mint when it rots can go into your compost bin enriching your waste. There is every reason to grow mint at home; you could grow them minimally even in a glass of water! There is no reason why you shouldn't. So get set and grow your mint and scent your life with health and well being.