Shawnee News-Star Blog July 7th 2017 Becky Emerson Carlberg The green bell pepper plant hold-out from last year is dying.   What a champion she has been.   The sweet Bell produced Pottawatomie County Free Fair blue ribbon winners (or were they red?) last September.   Bell stayed alive through the winter.   Early this spring, another crop of [...]

Shawnee News-Star Blog July 7th 2017

My Rescue Peppermint

Becky Emerson Carlberg

The green bell pepper plant hold-out from last year is dying.   What a champion she has been.   The sweet Bell produced Pottawatomie County Free Fair blue ribbon winners (or were they red?) last September.   Bell stayed alive through the winter.   Early this spring, another crop of smaller peppers appeared .   They were harvested two weeks ago. Bell had done her last hoorah.   Her leaves are now withering on the stalks.   Soon the Gold Nugget tomato plant will have the entire Earth Box to itself. Bell has not abandoned her friend yet.   As she shuts down, her strong stems will still stand and support her buddy.   You just can't find a plant like this every day!

The container of peppermint (Mentha x piperita) was sitting by the potted cannas wondering what was going to happen next. Barring the wildflowers to the east of the house, my entire plant collection resides in pots or raised beds.   Linda Smith's 'Container Gardening' last week hit the nail on the head.   If the soil has not been religiously amended, probably over the past century, Central Oklahoma can be a rough area to propagate plants.

The peppermint was to become my experiment. The last remaining peppermint at Lowe's had probably been experiencing feelings of rejection and loneliness. This garden herb has clusters of small purple flowers with aromatic oils in the leaves.   A natural hybrid between spearmint (Mentha spicata) and water mint (Mentha aquatica), peppermint has become quite common in our country and is a commercial crop in several areas.   Common it may be, but not native.   Peppermint is North African and Mediterranean in origin. The species name spicata means peppery and pungent.   The plastic label states my peppermint prefers partial shade for at least 3 to 6 hours.   It loves water.   Oh Oh. The plant can reach one to two feet in height, but the Bonnie info label says up to 36 inches.   Hmm.   Peppermint is not as invasive as other mints, but one of the recommended ways to plant peppermint is first restrain yourself from removing the peppermint from its pot.   Dig a deep hole and plant the pot with the peppermint inside.   Think of it, you can grow a plot of little potted peppermint plants.   OK, no, but what a thought.

In my mind's eye, I could see myself sitting outside under the spreading redbud tree sipping mint julep tea, using my own home grown peppermint leaves instead of the traditional spearmint, not my most favorite mint. Monks in the Middle Ages used peppermint as a tooth polisher.   Cheese makers discovered the strong odor of peppermint kept rats and mice out of storerooms.  Peppermint oil spritzes enhance the sauna experience.  What would Christmas be without peppermint candy canes?

The US and Europe are major producers of peppermint.   In the US, the hardier black variety is cultivated.   Black stem peppermint has dark purplish brown square stems (actually the entire Lamiaceae or mint family have square stems) and produces more oil.   The more delicate white variety of peppermint grown in England and France create less oil, but the oil is of better quality.  To open up your next conversation, throw out the fact that the United States and India produce the most mint oil used in chewing gum.

For months dozens of huge rhizomes of the tall reed grass (Arundo donax) have been extricated.   The thicket established itself two decades ago along the driveway, and the time had come to whittle down the reed patch. This would be the perfect place for the mint.   Grabbing my pick axe.yes, this is the tool of choice for my yard and the Japanese Peace GardenI hacked away at two contorted rhizomes until they rocked loose and could be pulled, with great effort, from the soil. Ready to plant the peppermint.   It's going directly into possibly some of the world's worst ground.   I am not worried about the peppermint taking over.   I just hope it lives and gives the reed grass a run for its money.