Spearmint grows best in zones 4-11. It is suited to sandy, loamy, or clay soils that are well drained and not too dry, with a pH between 6.0-7.5. Spearmint should be grown in full sunlight in order to produce more essential oils, but can also be grown in partial shade. The plant should be spaced 3 feet apart, as it grows 1-1.5 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Spearmint is in bloom from August to September. The plant needs frequent watering so that the soil is always moist. The plant should be placed in a pot before placing it in the ground because spearmint has very invasive roots and stems, and easily spreads. However spearmint cuttings can be propagated in water, as their roots will grow in 1-2 weeks and can be replanted elsewhere (3). It can be a good companion plant to cabbages and tomatoes because it wards of pests and insects. This helps lower the need for pesticides.
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
Spearmint leaves are often used in different culinary dishes and drinks as a garnish. It can also be used to make teas. The menthol found in spearmint has been found to increase the production of bile, which promotes a healthy digestive system. It can also be used as a moth repellant (3). Spearmint is also used to mask tastes from other herbs without diminishing the effectiveness. For example, in Mexican cultures, spearmint is added to tea with bitter rue, as a treatment for menstrual cramps, to improve flavor. (4)
Significance to Cultural Communities
Spearmint is native to southern and eastern Europe. The stems and essential oil from spearmint is used in folk medicine to treat cancer. In Mexico, mint is used in Albondigas (2). Spearmint is used in many Mexican herbal remedies and is regarded as gentle and comforting. In the Middle East, mint tea is often served to guests to welcome them. In this region, mint is seen as a symbol of hospitality, which is why serving a cup of mint tea with friends, family, and guests is somewhat like a daily ritual. In Morocco, making mint tea is actually seen as a job for the men, who consider it an art form; they use special tea pots and pouring techniques. (5)
From the Community Voice
"Neha’s family backyard is filled with vegetables and herbs. One of the plants that they plant the most is the mint. In the Indian culture, mint is used to make a typical Indian sauce that goes with almost all Indian dishes. It’s called the ‘pudina chutney’. There is one thing that you’ll always find at Neha’s house, and that’s Pudina Chutney. I have to admit, I’m very tempted to go over to her place and get some. Being an Indian myself, I love Pudina Chutney. Neha also likes experimenting different drinks by adding mint to them (reminds me of a good virgin mojito)."
Neha's plants stories, collected by Esha Kher
1. Metha spicata Spearmint. (2008). Retrieved October 22, 2013, from Plants for a Future website: http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Mentha+spicata
2. Hill, M., & Barclay, G. (2001, August 23). Mints in Ethnic Cuisines. Retrieved October 20, 2013, from The Herbal Touch website: http://www.theherbaltouch.com/iha/mint98.html
3. Mint - Cultivation and Uses. (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2013, from Harbal Gardens website: http://www.herbalgardens.com/archives/herb-monthly-archive/mint.html
4. Davidow, Joie, Infusions of Healing: A Treasury of Mexican-American Herbal Remedies (New York, NY: Fireside, 1999).
5. “Cooling Mint.” Healthy Herbs Living. http://www.healthyliving-herbs.co.za/index.php/herb-articles/675-cooling-mint