When I say mint, what do you think of? Chewing gum? Those red-and-white candies? Toothpaste? At this time of year, you should be turning your attention to the real stuff — the aromatic, leafy green herb you may already have growing in your backyard.

While there are many varieties of mint, you’re probably most familiar with spearmint and peppermint. Peppermint is more pungent. It has pointed, though slightly rounded, purplish-tinted leaves with relatively smooth edges. The leaves of spearmint are elongated with edges that are more jagged. Other varieties of mint are named after the foods whose flavor they resemble, including chocolate mint, pineapple mint and apple mint.

Regardless of what variety you favor, keep a few things in mind. Mint is invasive, like take-over-your-garden invasive. So if you grow it, be sure to cut it back or, better yet, keep it contained in a pot. A little goes a long way in cooking, too, so when you are using it in a dish, start with a little and add more to taste. Keep that in mind especially when you are using mint in something akin to an ice cream base, where over-steeping can lead to a medicinal rather than pleasant flavor.

The herb also holds up pretty well in the refrigerator. As with basil, you can stand stems in a glass of water and cover it with a plastic bag, changing the water every few days.

Want to know what to do with this summer specialty? Here are some ideas from our archives.

Mint Chutney. Vibrant in color and flavor, this condiment is at home on top of lamb, among other things. It will keep at least a few days in the refrigerator.


Dill and Mint Yogurt Dip. This riff on sour cream and onion dip is completely addictive and way, way better than what you buy from the store in a tub.


Sweet Pea and Mint Couscous. This fresh and healthful side is ideal for light summer meals.


Mint and Egg Salad. If you need to use lots of mint from your yard — up to 2 cups — this is the dish for you. It’s also a new favorite at WaPo Food/Voraciously headquarters.


Fresh Mint Ice Cream With Chocolate FlakesA classic ice cream flavor that’s freckled with grated chocolate and not hard, frozen chunks that will break your teeth.


MojitoThis version of the always-refreshing cocktail calls for a simple syrup made with Demerara sugar, a raw sugar that is closer to brown sugar in flavor. You can use a simple syrup made with regular granulated sugar, though the flavor will be tamer.

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