Pictured above is my small, but promising herbal garden consisting of two newbie friendly types: Basil and mint. Both are easy to cultivate, make cuttings from, clone and turn into hybrids. These two pictures show how I separate and grow these two herbs, but don’t tell the whole story. Over the last 6 months, I’ve gifted, consumed and traded away around 50 pots of these two herbs. I’ll spill the beans on how I did this on a very small amount of space.
I’ve been a bartender my entire life (15 years, give or take) and if there is one herb I’ve handled more than my fair share of, it’s mint. When you work in a bar with a high volume of consumption of minty drinks, for example, mojito’s or similar drinks, mint comes in these cute little pots and in leafy bundles. The potted version is the same as you can pick up at the grocery store, while the bundled ones are more of a specialist product – Those are made specifically for spots that produce a huge amount of minty cocktails.
Those potted mint-plants are used for cocktail decoration and the bulk of the mint used in bars I’ve worked in that is an actual ingredient (muddled, shaken or stirred into drinks) comes rubber banded together by the stems and without a root system attached. In bars with a lower volume of sales in the mojito-department, they usually only use the potted version since it stays fresh longer (and you can even water them to keep them even longer).
I haven’t quite found out how to grow that version of mints that comes rubber banded with thicker stems and fuller leaves, looking like a sort of green bouquet, but I enjoy that there are new things to discover once I’m done with my current project.
(and I can’t wait to get my hands of some chocolate mint-variety!)
My home-grown mint gets used in three ways: Tea, Cooking, and barter. I enjoy a handful of mint leaves from the balcony to give my tea some flavor and medical benefits (it also makes me relaxed enough to sleep like a baby) and I love to sprinkle it on homecooked chicken as a condiment. I have a few salad recipes I’d love to try with mint too, I’ve heard it goes well with mozzarella cheese, which is a big bonus.
I’ve also used my experience with the bad planning of Oslo’s bar industry in a smart way: I let every one of my bartender friends know that I have fresh mint on my kitchen counter, but I can’t spoil any more of my business practices here.
CLONING MINT PLANTS (ALMOST?) ENDLESSLY
My formula for growing clones of mint plants (which also work for basil plants!) is quite simple. First, you need a mint plant and after that, you do this:
1. Find a top of your plant that is looking healthy (it’s growing, has no discoloration and leaves a trace of that nice, minty, smell to your fingers when you gently touch it). From that nice top of the plant, find a fine set of leaves growing under that top and cut it off right under the leaves.
(Note: I’ve read that you need quite a bit of stem between the crown (the top) and these leaves, but I’ve tried both the longer and shorter versions and never failed – If you want to make sure, don’t just stop at the first set of healthy leaves like I’ve done in the photo above, but go a few more set of leaves deeper down. I haven’t found out the reason behind some of these people advice against it, so if anyone has any wisdom to share on the subject, please leave a comment here. Maybe I’ve had almost half-a-year of beginners luck or the reason why you don’t want to do it isn’t apparent and everyone I’ve read advising against it it is following obvious wisdom to more veteran growers?)
2. Remove the leaves from the stem up to the crown. The stem will now act as a straw between the top that will soak in sunlight and the bottom that will grow roots if we feed it water.
3. Take your new cutting and place it in water, make sure it covers the entire stem. The drip bottle I’m showing above is not see-through because the roots are a bit shy – I’ve had better results with cuttings that got their roots protected from light and I’m sticking to what has been working so far.
The shape of this sort of container has been ideal for me: It’s easy to place almost anywhere and is easy to move around if you need to (mine are in the kitchen bench area, so if I need to do some cutting or cleaning I’ll just slide them around without issue).
Note: Mint is, in general, sun-shy and prefers shade. Especially when growing up to be a big boy/girl. Sunbathed mint is very bitter and loses that signature menthol flavor – I haven’t researched too deeply in why that is, but have observed it from different cuttings and people I have discussed the phenomenon with online shares my experience. The mint plants in the header picture of this article are on my balcony and are far more bitter than the ones indoor on the kitchen counter.
4. After some time, 2 weeks being my average, the mint plant in the container will start to develop a root system (and its hard to see in the above photo, but suckers have been sprouted, the leafy “roots” between the roots). That is a potential new plant that you can plant in, for example, dirt and it will start to grow big and strong.
Summer is soon becoming fall and I need a plan for all the mint plants residing on the balcony outside. I enjoy my mint tea too much to let it go. The business opportunities from having access to a large number of plants have been nice as well (and is the reason why it is so scarce on my kitchen counter at the moment). The natural herbal effects of mint is a nice plus as well, I might look into how you extract essential oils from them, make perfume, infuse with it and so forth, in the future.
But, my main concern is how to keep my little colony growing inside and what method is the best? That was until I found this extremely funny video: Why you shouldn’t grow aquaponic mint
It dawned upon me that mint likes wet feet. It doesn’t really bother the plant that it is in constant water, in fact, it will thrive in it. I think I’ve found the plant that I can try to plug into a beginner nano aquaponics system. I even have two example versions in mind to try out.
More on that in another post.
Before I let you go, I’m going to leave you with a book recommendation. I haven’t read the book yet, I’m awaiting its arrival to my mailbox, but I have high hopes for it: Deeply Rooted.
It is written by the woman behind the 1849 Medicine Garden in San Fransisco and I came across the Medicine garden from listening to a podcast interview with her, Bonnie Rose Weaver, on the Sustainable World Radio – Highly recommend a listen. The 1849 Medicine Garden is all about making herbs and I’m going to enjoy digging into the book and familiarize myself with some more beneficial herbs to grow and enrich my life with. Mint is just the first step in a larger plan.
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