Mentha x gracilis
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Common Name: Ginger Mint
Mentha x gracilis is a perennial plant that can grow up to 0.45 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
Although no records of toxicity have been seen for this species, large quantities of some members of this genus, especially when taken in the form of the extracted essential oil, can cause abortions so some caution is advised.
A hybrid, M. arvensis x M. spicata.
Not known in a truly wild situation.
Succeeds in most soils and situations so long as the soil is not too dry[
]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. A sunny position is best for production of essential oils, but it also succeeds in partial shade.
This species is somewhat less easy in cultivation than most other mints. It can be lost over winter if the weather is very cold or wet so ensure that it is grown in a warm, well-drained sunny position[
A sterile hybrid, the result of a cross between M. arvensis and M. spicata, though it can back-cross with its parents. There are some named varieties[
], most of which have variegated leaves.
A polymorphic species[
Most mints have fairly aggressive spreading roots and, unless you have the space to let them roam, they need to be restrained by some means such as planting them in containers that are buried in the soil[
The whole plant has a strong minty aroma with a hint of ginger[
The flowers are very attractive to bees and butterflies. A good companion plant for growing near cabbages and tomatoes, helping to keep them free of insect pests.
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
Leaves - raw or cooked. They are used as a flavouring in salads or cooked foods[
]. A refreshing odour and taste[
], they are said to go particularly well with melon, tomatoes and fruit salads[
]. The slight ginger scent make them an interesting addition to fresh salads[
A herb tea is made from the leaves.
An essential oil from the leaves is used as a spearmint flavouring, it is especially used in N. America in chewing gums[
Ginger mint, like many other members of this genus, is often used as a domestic herbal remedy, being valued especially for its antiseptic properties and its beneficial effect on the digestion. Like other members of the genus, it is best not used by pregnant women because large doses can cause an abortion.
A tea made from the leaves has traditionally been used in the treatment of fevers, headaches, digestive disorders and various minor ailments[
]. The leaves are harvested as the plant comes into flower and can be dried for later use[
The essential oil in the leaves is antiseptic, though it is toxic in large doses[
The essential oil obtained from the leaves has a spearmint flavour and is used commercially in N. America[
Rats and mice intensely dislike the smell of mint. The plant was therefore used in homes as a strewing herb and has also been spread in granaries to keep the rodents off the grain[
Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. Germination is usually fairly quick. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer. Mentha species are very prone to hybridisation and so the seed cannot be relied on to breed true. Even without hybridisation, seedlings will not be uniform and so the content of medicinal oils etc will vary. When growing plants with a particular aroma it is best to propagate them by division[
Division can be easily carried out at almost any time of the year, though it is probably best done in the spring or autumn to allow the plant to establish more quickly. Virtually any part of the root is capable of growing into a new plant. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. However, for maximum increase it is possible to divide the roots up into sections no more than 3cm long and pot these up in light shade in a cold frame. They will quickly become established and can be planted out in the summer.