Chocolate mint is an easy to grow perennial that once you plant it, you will find yourself with an abundance of it. It smells just like the name suggests, like minty chocolate, and smells good enough to eat! If you grow chocolate mint or are considering it, take a look at these 7 creative uses for chocolate mint that you must try! You will find that it’s a really practical and delicious herb to grow. Here is what you need to know:
1. Use it as a dessert garnish.
You can use it to top your cakes, cookies, and cupcakes as it offers some nice color and even adds to the aroma of the dessert.
2. Add it to shakes and ice cream.
Chocolate mint is a wonderful addition to your homemade shakes and ice cream. The oils in the plant can add a minty flavor and chocolate aroma that is heavenly. Be sure you only use mint that has been grown without chemicals and is rinsed well.
3. Freeze it in ice cubes.
Fancy up your beverages and add flavor at the same time when you freeze chocolate mint leaves in ice cubes. They will give the cubes some color and add flavor as they melt. This is an excellent idea to try when you’re throwing a garden party or shower. You can also add it to homemade popsicles as well.
4. Add it to your cocktails.
Chocolate mint is perfect for adding to your cocktails that require muddled mint. Mojitos taste even better when you add some fresh mint, and chocolate mint will get the job done and add a unique twist to the drink as well. Also, you can garnish any drink with a fresh chocolate mint sprig!
5. Make mint infused oil.
You can let chocolate mint leaves and stems soak in a bottle of almond or coconut oil to make your own mint infused oil. You can then use it as a massage oil (mint will cause slight tingles and warmness, be advised) or even add it to dessert recipes or a type of fruit salad.
6. Mix it in with your homemade bath products.
You can add chocolate mint to any of your homemade body scrubs, body butters, or other homemade bath products. Just muddle the mint or dry it and add it. You will not only get the benefits of mint but it will leave a wonderful scent too.
7. Dry it for crafting.
You can use dried mint leaves in your crafting as well. Try adding it to homemade candles, lotions, potpourri and more. It will add a lovely fragrance and some fresh color as well. To dry your mint just tie it into a bundle and hang it in a cool dark place until it’s dry.
So, what do you think of these creative uses for chocolate mint? Are you ready to put all your chocolate mint to work for you?
Canning for Beginners: How to Get Started with Canning
Home canning is a fun and healthy way to preserve the summer harvest. Although canning was first discovered in the 1700’s, it wasn’t made popular until the late 1850’s when John Mason invented a jar with a screw top lid. Interest steadily grew until the 1950’s, when supermarkets became widespread.
In recent years, canning has started making a comeback. Gardening is fast becoming a popular hobby, and farmer’s markets are plentiful. Families are more mindful about the chemicals in food and preservation, and home canning makes it simple to know exactly what your family is eating.
Home canning can seem overwhelming to a beginner, but there are recipes and techniques for all skill levels. You won’t need many supplies and they can be inexpensive. Here are the answers to frequently asked questions that will make canning for beginners less intimidating. What canning supplies you need, where to find recipes and how to get started with canning!
Water bath canning, sometimes called boiling water canning, is the easiest and least time consuming method. This method applies to high acid foods, such as fruit, tomato based, and pickled recipes.
A pressure canner is used to can low acid foods, such as corn, green beans, and soups. It maintains a higher internal temperature which is required to destroy the bacteria that more acidic fruits and vegetables destroy on their own.
When making your selection, consider skill level, seasonal produce and additional ingredients. Although jams and jellies are relatively easy to make, they can be expensive and delicate. So when it comes to canning for beginners, tomatoes, pickles and fruit like peaches or cherries are typically the best.
Preparing your Supplies for Canning
Once you’ve selected a recipe, you will need to prepare your supplies. A water bath canner should be inspected thoroughly for corrosion, dents, and pinholes. Any of these can affect the distribution of heat, resulting in an unsafe can.
Wash the rings and lids with warm soapy water. Allow the rings to dry thoroughly and place the lids in a pot of simmering water. They must maintain a temperature of 180°F. Although you can reuse rings until they begin to rust, you should never reuse the lid. The food safe compound seal is only good for one use.
Inspect your jars thoroughly for any cracks, chips, or scrapes. Wash with warm soapy water and rinse. If there is a film or residue on the jars, soak them in a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water. Wash with a soft cloth and rinse.
Place jars in a pot of simmering water for no less than 10 minutes. Jars must be hot when filled.
Alternatively, you can skip the handwashing and boiling the jars by running them through the dishwasher. As soon as it’s finished, you can begin removing the jars one by one to fill. Make sure to keep the dishwasher closed between fillings to keep the jars warm.
Keeping Canning Safe
If possible, always use a funnel to fill your jars. You can pick up a canning funnel for less than $2 in stores and it will help prevent burns and messes. This also keeps food from the rims of the jars, which will result in a bad seal. If you spill food on the edge, wipe the edges with a warm, damp towel.
You may be lucky enough to have had a pressure canner gifted to you or handed down from a family member or friend. Before using, take the canner to a hardware store and have it tested. The seals can deteriorate over time and the pressure gauge can malfunction, so annual testing is recommended.
Canning for beginners should never be feared. If you follow the proper techniques and keep your supplies clean, you will provide your family with healthy, delicious produce for years to come.
I mentioned in my first container garden update that I would do a separate post detailing the plants I have in the pot I deemed my ‘Mosquito Planter’. While we don’t get a ton of mosquitoes, we do live by a creek (damp) so we do see them around and they are not my favourite bug to live with. In one of my Pinterest escapades, I discovered that I could create a container full of plants that mosquitoes don’t like. Namely plants of the citrus scented variety.
Not only does the scent of the plants keep mosquitoes at bay, I can even tear off a leaf and rub it on my skin if I’m finding they’re getting too close. I may even bring a leaf or two along on any hikes we might be doing!
Here’s what I put in the pot:
Citronella Geranium (I would use these leaves on my skin)
Marigold ‘Lemon Gem’
Lemon Thyme (can be used in cooking too!)
Gazanias (only because I had extra from another flower pot)
I was looking for lemon grass but I couldn’t find any before I got tired of diving to all our local nurseries.
I’m excited to see how this works as the summer goes on. I hope it fills out nicely and that pretty flowers appear!
Have you ever done something like this? Did it help ward off the mosquitoes?
While you may be tempted to use plain old garden soil for filling your containers, garden soil is actually not ideal (on its own) for container gardening. It’s not ideal because having proper drainage for your container vegetables is necessary to the success of your plants. See, garden soil is much more dense than soil made specifically for containers. so, if you use only garden soil, water can pool around the roots of your plants, which causes them to drown because they’re lacking oxygen. So having a lighter mix of peat moss, compost and vermiculite will allow water to drain properly, giving the roots proper oxygen.
Along with proper drainage, the main functions of a potting mix are:
To hold moisture and nutrients around your plant roots.
To allow enough oxygen for roots to be able to breath and not rot.
To provide proper support for your plants, protecting them from the elements. You don’t want them to blow over from the wind!
If you want an easy way to give your plants the highest chance at success, you can simply head to your local garden shop and buy a bag or two of potting soil. But if you’re looking for something that you can customize yourself, here’s a basic potting soil recipe:
Basic Potting Soil
1 part peat moss
1 part compost
1 part vermiculite
Simply mix all the ingredients together in a large bucket, wheelbarrow or tarp. Just so you don’t inhale too much dirt and dust, you should wear a mask during the mixing process.
You also might want to add some fertilizer based on the type of plants you want to grow in the pots, which is available at your local garden store. Speak to one of the helpful employees and they’ll be sure to recommend something that will suit your needs.
Here’s how to create a lasagna garden in a container:
Making homemade marinara sauce for your lasagna from fresh herbs and vegetables right out of the garden is a must in authentic Italian cuisine. Making a red sauce that is amazing comes from growing herbs and vegetables in your own backyard so you may pick them at their absolute ripest. Growing a Lasagna Garden in a Container is a great use of space and allows you to grow a themed garden even if you don’t have that huge backyard garden.
The tomato which is the star of the show is the Roma tomato and it grows amazingly well in a container garden. Romas are known for their thick pulp and hearty tomato flavor and they cook down very easily into a sauce. The main herbs found in traditional marinara sauce include basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, and garlic.
Use a large container
Plant the tomato plant into the center of a large container – the bigger the better for this container garden. No smaller than 18 inches around or less than 10 gallons. Both tomatoes and basil can get to be big plants and are heavy nutrient feeders. Thyme and oregano are great to plant on the edges of the container as they will trail over and their root balls don’t spread out too much. Parsley can also grow larger if it has room to grow and it is best to plant between the oregano and thyme.
Use quality potting soil
The key to a successful lasagna garden is in the quality of the potting soil and the amendments you add to it. Amend the potting soil with a fertilizer like Miracle Grow so that your plants get their much needed nutrients. Add this fertilizer every 3 weeks or so to your watering can and water away. When you first plant your lasagna garden, give your plants a long drink of water or until you see water coming out the bottom of the container. After you have watered the plants, grab a stick and stick it into the soil to see how far down the water went. You need the stick to be wet at least 6 inches deep, if not, keep watering!
Plant garlic chives
Growing garlic is more on the difficult side of gardening. If it won’t grow in your area, then grow garlic chives instead. They have a great garlic flavor and their bright green stems give a pop of color in your sauce. The best part is that they can grow on the edge of the container very easily.
Make sure your lasagna garden is receiving at least six hours of sunlight a day. If needed, pull your container into the shade if you have overly hot summers. I will often put my container gardens on planter wheels so I can roll them around the garden based on where the sun is at that part of the year.
Enjoy your lasagna garden and happy container gardening!
I’m back with another video! This time it’s all about how to harvest basil. The way I show in the video will allow your plant to grow bushier, which means you should have plenty of basil leaves to enjoy all season long!
When harvesting basil, it’s best to pinch off a piece of the stem rather than just snipping off a leaf or two. Before you make your pinch, take a close look at your basil plant. Basil leaves grow in sets of two and the leaves are positioned opposite from each other on the stem. If you look at the point where the leaves meet the stem, you should see two sets of tiny leaves growing out of the junction. When you’re harvesting, it’s important to make your pinch directly above a set of leaves. By pinching off the main stem, you’re sending a signal to the leaves that it’s time for them to grow into branches, in turn, creating a bushier plant.
If you want to keep your basil fresh, place your freshly harvested stems in a glass of water rather than sticking it in the fridge. The basil will stay fresh in the water for a week or more. In fact, if you leave the stems in water they will eventually root and you can replant them in a pot or out in the garden!