Mint is a herb most commonly used to enhance flavour and scent within, food, drinks and products. For example, a mojito is an alcoholic cocktail which is well known for its sharp, minty taste. You can identify mint by noticing its square stem and strong scent, and the herb is often used for decorative garden purposes due to the beautifully patterned tip of each mint.
How to grow
Mint ἡδύοσμος (hēduosmos) is mentioned only once in the Bible, but there is little doubt to which plant it refers. The likeliest candidates from among the mentha family are Mentha viridis, ‘green mint’ and Mentha longifolia, ‘wild’ or ‘horse mint’ (Tristram, 1898: 471; Mussleman, 2007:184).
Mint is notoriously prolific and can spread easily to surrounding areas, so you may want to put some obstacles/barriers in place to keep the growth contained. A container that is sunk into the ground works very well. The advantage is that mint tends to be extremely easy to grow and is often resilient and long lasting.
- Sew seeds 1/4 inch deep into moist soil
- Keep soil moist and seedlings should appear in 7 to 14 days
- When planting, each stem of mint should be placed 2-3 feet apart in moist soil, and you can expect them to fully grow from 1-2 feet tall.
- If you are planting in a small pot or a greenhouse, it may be worth adding a layer of compost or organic fertiliser to the top of the plant to boost its growth.
Lastly, if you are planting mint in a large body of soil, be aware that this herb can spread easily to it’s surrounding areas, so you may want to put some obstacles/barriers in place to keep the growth contained.
Mint in the Bible
The proliferation of mint meant that, in Antiquity, there was probably little reason to deliberately cultivate it. While on his travels, Tristram (1898: 471) noted that it grew on all the hills and was ‘much larger than our garden mint.’ It was most probably harvested ‘wild’ – although, by the end of the 19th century, Tristram did note that specific species were being cultivated.
Goodfellow (2015:57) suggests that it was used (as today) with lamb and that it was also used to make mint tea. The United Bible Societies (1980:143) state that it is used as a condiment when eating, for example, milk and cucumber. They also argue that “[m]int stems and leaves are scattered over the floors of synagogues.” Jensen (2012: loc cit. 1833) observes that mint has been found in ancient Egyptian tombs and that:
Hippocrates described the plants as warming and diuretic, but he was warned against excessive use of mint in the kitchen. Other sources from before the birth of Christ inform us about the Jewish use of mint as a spice and against intestinal worms. In the cookery book written by the Roman gourmet Marcus Gabius Apicius (1st Century AD) green or dried mint is mentioned on nearly every page in the book.Jensen (2012: loc cit.1833)
We become familiar with mint during the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus says:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practised without neglecting the others.Matthew 23:23 (//Luke 11:14) (NRSV)
In this extract, we can see that Jesus is expressing his frustration to the Pharisees, as their acts of charity are not enough when there are matters of law which need to be taken care of within the society. It is implied in this passage that mint was seen as a high value herb, as the act of giving a tenth of your mint to the less fortunate is something the Pharisees see as an important act of generosity. This is supported by Colbert in his book The What Would Jesus Eat Cookbook, where he states that mint was often used to prevent milk from going off, and to help digestion, therefore being a valuable resource to many. Moreover, this source is most likely very reliable, as it was published in 2011, suggesting that all information will be up to date and align with current research believed to be accurate.
Colbert, D. (2011). The What Would Jesus Eat Cookbook. Thomas Nelson.
Goodfellow, P. (2015) Flora and Fauna of the Bible: A guide for Bible readers and naturalists. Oxford: John Beaufoy.
Jensen, H.A. (2012) Plant World of the Bible. [Kindle] Bloomington: Author House.
Musselman, L.J. (2007) Figs, Dates, Laurel and Myrrh: Plants of the Bible and Quran. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press.
United Bible Societies (1980) Fauna and Flora of the Bible. Helps for Translators. 2nd edn. London: United Bible Societies.