Monday, August 18, 2014

Growing Vietnamese Mint

A beautiful, fragrant and useful addition to any garden is Vietnamese mint, Kinh Gioi.  Unlike other mints, such as spearmint and peppermint, this mint has a very mild fresh scent with a hint of lemon.

It grows easily from seed and in fact, once you have this plant one year, expect to see it cropping up in years to come since it reseeds itself freely.  Even with this in mind, it is not anywhere near as invasive as the spearmint in my garden.  Spearmint sends out runners that takes it all over the place.  Vietnamese mint may sprout up in multiple areas, but once there it does not form runners.

The plant grows much taller than either spearmint or peppermint.  Untrimmed stalks can grow as high as three or four feet.  If you trim it back it will make a bushy plant.  You will want to be trimming it back often because this mint is excellent for culinary purposes.  It is often included in spring rolls and salads, combining its soft mint flavor with a lemony taste.

Fresh picked Kinh Gioi, Vietnamese mint 

I tried it recently in a tincture recipe and after just 5 days of steeping it produced a wonderful result that lets me impart its wonderful taste to my chilled water (if you would like instructions about making an herbal tincture with this mint, check out my blog post here).  Of course its fresh leaves are a great addition to chilled drinks as well.

This is a tender perennial in frost-free areas, and an annual herb elsewhere.  You plant it in late spring or summer.  It seems to thrive in hot weather and mine is still growing strong in mid-august.  It seems to tolerate dry conditions very well.  It does however die back if you get a freeze.  This is my second year with it and I feared it was gone for good after last winters hard freeze.  It delighted me by sprouting up in multiple locations so I just transplanted the volunteer seedlings where I wanted them and they took off and never looked back.

Last year I didn't know how to use it very well so it ended up going to seed fairly quickly.  Like most mints if it is not cut back it will flower and make seeds.  This year I have cut it back about three times and it has not gone to seed yet.  I will make sure to let at least one of the volunteers go to seed to make sure I will have plenty of returning players next year.

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