Peppermint is good for many things. The tea has been proven to sooth an upset stomach. It helps with digestive problems. Chewing the leaves banishes bad breath, and also has a soothing effect on your nerves. Peppermint’s oil is used in candy and medicine, and mixed with water and simmered on the stove it is a wonderful room freshener.
Peppermint is an easy herb to grow; in fact it will take over your yard if it is not contained. But why contain it? I have a large patch in my back yard, just under the bedroom and bathroom windows. It’s lovely to open the windows and let the smell of this wonderful herb drift through the house.
I bought my plants at a garden center, and have freely shared them by pulling up a runner by the roots and letting my friends take it home to plant in their own garden. You can also purchase seeds, which you would sow about ½ inches deep in the spring.
Plant peppermint in a sunny location. The soil needs to be moist, but not wet all the time.
Harvest your peppermint after the plants are a foot high. At maturity, they will grow to a height of about three feet.
If you don’t want peppermint to take over your whole yard, you can bury 12 inch boards around it, or plant it in a bottomless 5 gallon bucket.
To make tea, break off a handful of peppermint stems with large leaves. Put them in a jar, and add sweetener. I add Stevia, another plant you can grow in your garden, for zero calorie sweetening, but you can also use honey or sugar. Pour two or three cups of boiling water over the leaves in the jar and let it steep for at least five minutes. Then take the leaves out and fill the jar the rest of the way with fresh water and ice cubes.
My family drinks this refreshing tea all day, especially in the hot Texas summers. My young children, even my three year old, happily drink this tea rather than asking for soda. And I feel a LOT better about giving them tea I have grown myself instead of a soft drink.
Stevia, also called Sweet Leaf, is another plant to consider growing. I found a plant at our local Central Market store, and brought it home to plant in my herb patch. I simply break off small part, and add it to my peppermint leaves when I make tea. It’s so much better for you than any artificial sweetener, since it’s natural, and you can hardly tell the difference between Stevia and sugar.
I use fresh leaves during the spring and summer, but you can harvest Stevia to dry in the autumn, since shorter days and cooler temperatures bring out the sweetness of the leaves. Clip off the branches and dry them on an old window screen. Once dry, strip off the leaves and grind them as fine as possible and use them as you would use sugar.
Growing your own tea is an enjoyable way to use your garden. And growing your own sweetener adds to the whole experience.
The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery