If you have ever grown mint in the ground, you have probably experienced its ability to multiply itself, eventually taking over the garden. It pops up in places you never thought it would, and grows well in zones 5-9, especially in rich composted soil. Thankfully, mint is a fantastic herb that has many uses from culinary to medicinal and beyond.
Its flavor fabulous and its virtues many, mint is an easy herb to work with. It is used as a digestive aid, relieving cramps, nausea, and vomiting. It is the flavor of choice for many chewing gums and toothpastes because it does such a wonderful job freshening the breath and cleaning the mouth. It has also been used to relieve the pain and duration of headaches, and it does well as a topical for bee stings, toothache, and sunburn. The fact that it has no real known side effects makes it usable for our family, our pets, and our gardens alike.
There are many varieties of mint such as spearmint and peppermint, and even chocolate, lime, lemon, ginger, and pineapple! Most all varieties of mint have common properties and can be used in the same way, however, always do your research before you use any kind of plant in larger than culinary amounts, especially with children and pregnant women.
On my homestead, I grow mostly peppermint. It started out in my herb garden, but has traveled into all four of my gardens by one way or another, which leaves me with plenty of mint to work with. Here are ten “homestead-beneficial” ideas that I either use regularly, or will be trying with the mint I am harvesting out of our gardens.
Mint as Food
- Mint Syrup is great in hot or cold teas (start with only 1 Tbsp at first, then adjust to taste–it’s very sweet). To make, bring 1 part water to a boil. Stir in 1/2 to 1 part sugar to the boiling water (more sugar will make a thicker syrup) and stir until dissolved. Fill up a mason jar(s) with fresh mint leaves (rinse them first if they are fresh out of the garden). Pour sugar water over mint leaves and allow to steep until cooled to room temp. Strain mint leaves out, squeezing leaves so you get all of the nutrients from the mint. Keep refrigerated. Can be frozen until you are ready to use. It’s a great way to improve the flavor of the meals you are making from your survival crops.
- Eat the Leaves: Add a few leaves to your salad, yogurt, or drink for a minty compliment and added nutrition.
Mint as Medicine
- Herbal Tea helps with abdominal cramping and gas, and tastes fantastic too. To make hot tea, steep 3-5 fresh mint leaves in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove leaves and enjoy. For iced mint tea, add 1/3 cup dried leaves to a half-gallon mason jar. Add 1 quart of boiling water and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Strain leaves from liquid through a metal strainer, pressing herbs with spoon to extract extra nutrition and flavor. Refrigerate and enjoy!
- Tinctures: Use for indigestion, upset stomach, motion sickness, allergies, and headaches. To make, add finely chopped fresh herbs to a clean, dry glass jar. Pour enough alcohol (I recommend cheap 100 proof vodka; do not use rubbing alcohol) to completely cover herbs by 2-3 inches, then seal jar with a tight-fitting lid (if using a metal lid, put a bit of plastic wrap between the lid and the jar. If herbs float to top and do not settle, top off with a bit more alcohol if there is room. If there is no room and I’m using a wide-mouthed mason jar, I use a plastic regular-mouthed mason jar lid (like the Tattler type) to weight the herbs down. Let herbs soak for 4-6 weeks in a warm sunny spot, shaking daily. Strain herbs from liquid and pour liquid into a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and store in a cool, dry spot. For adult use, the dosage is up to 1 tsp. as needed.
- Ease Sunburn Pain: Make a strong tea, let cool, and put into a spray bottle (keep refrigerated for adding cool relief and to keep fresh). Spray onto affected areas as needed. Mint is a great addition to your herbal medicine repertoire.
Mint on the Homestead
- In the Barn: Harvest mint, remove the best leaves and set aside the rest of the leaves for your family’s needs. The remaining damages and imperfect leaves can be used in your chickens’ nesting boxes or rabbit hutch tray to keep bugs and flies away. If you have large bunches of mint growing on your property like I have, cut in bunches and tie together with twine to make beautiful swags for your barn, around your rabbit hutch/cages, or in your chicken coop to repel flies.
- Cuttings and Propagation: Harvest your unwelcome mint plants and propagate cuttings of the stems. Gift them to friends, family, and neighbors, or sell them at your local farmer’s market.
- As Garden Pest Control: There is always the option to leave it where it is to repel pests. You will need to make sure to harvest before it goes to seed and watch traveling roots if you do not want it to take over your garden, however.
- In Animal Feed: In fresh form, mint is fantastic for rabbits and chickens, and can be used freely in nutritious “salads” for your small livestock. Here’s my recipe for borage, peppermint, comfrey, and apple salad (enough for one rabbit, 2lbs and up): ½ cup each borage and mint, 1 Tb comfrey (contains amino acids that aid in boosting protein levels; can be helpful in preventing colds, diahhrea), and 1 Tb peeled apple (if you are using an organic apple, you may leave the peels on; remove seeds, they are poisonous). Serve fresh. Multiply amounts for a large batch for your herd, and perhaps even share with your chickens!
Mint on Your Prepper Shelf
- Store for a Rainy Day: Dehydrate mint leaves at 95 degrees until completely dry, add to mason jars along with a 100cc oxygen absorber. Vacuum seal and store in a cool, dark place. Use within a year for best results.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of what you can do with mint–likely it’s prolific growing style and myriad uses have given many good reason to find creative ways to use this fantastic herb.