Tagetes minuta. Also known as Huacatay, this Andean native is more closely related to the marigold than to mint. But its complex herbal aroma immediately reminds one of mint. Notes of cilantro, licorice, and citrus can also be detected. It is said to make an excellent alternative for those who dislike the flavour of cilantro. The leaves will be familiar to anyone who has grown marigolds, but the Latin species name refers to its sparse and diminutive flowers. Yet the plants can reach 2m (6') tall, so they are a striking addition to the herb garden. The roots of Peruvian Black Mint are known to kill many perennial weeds, including Ground Elder, Couch Grass, and Field Bind Weed. This herb is a staple ingredient in a number of Peruvian dishes.
The mint family is vast and cross pollination is difficult to control, so many sources suggest that mint will not come true from seed. Our mint seeds are grown in isolation and bred with care in a greenhouse setting. Follow this handy How to Grow Mint for seeds guide and grow some flavour.
Season & Zone
Season: Cool season
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Zone: Hardy to Zone 5
Sow indoors 8-10 weeks before last frost, or direct sow in April/May. Seeds should sprout in 10-16 days. Bottom heat will speed germination.
Sow seeds no more than 5mm (¼”) deep in moist soil. Space plants 45-60cm (18-24″) apart.
Mint spreads in the garden with gusto via a vigorous root system, so it may be preferable to confine it to planters on the balcony. Prune plants back hard in early summer to promote good top growth. Bring some inside to grow in a small container over winter if you have a brightly lit windowsill.
Clip leaves or branches as needed throughout the year. Mint is so hardy and tough that it will grow right back. Dry the leaves and flowers for peppermint tea, or use them fresh. The flowers are edible and make salads and sweets come to life.
Mint attracts earthworms, hoverflies and predatory wasps, and repels cabbage moths, aphids, and flea beetles. Mint is invasive, so it may be better to use cut mint as a mulch around Brassicas, or to restrain it in containers around the vegetable garden. Avoid planting near parsley.
More on Companion Planting.