When we compare basil vs mint we can see that they belong to the same distant family, but is that enough to say they have similarities as so many other plants belong to the Lamiaceae family too?
I am comparing Genovese or sweet basil to Peppermint, the most strongest of the mint flavors. Basil is peppery with anise notes and a mint like quality towards the back, pungent and with a kick if eaten in large amounts. Mint is highly menthol and will act as a palate cleanser in many dishes.
Both are used extensively as a garnish, but there is so much more to these two fantastic herbs once we learn a little more, and get a bit more comfortable with them.
Basil Vs Mint In The Garden
Although both of these herbs grow wild in the Mediterranean there are some inherent differences between how we grow and care for basil vs mint.
Basil is a tender perennial that is very prone to both over and under watering. Roots do not like to be soggy and too much sun can cause the leaves to wilt. Mint is a half hardy perennial that is invasive and has a level of drought tolerance. Once established it is almost impossible to kill.
Basil will grow well in a pot or container on your kitchen windowsill and mint does very well in a deep pot in the garden. I offer our mint a level of protection from heavy frosts too.
Basil Vs Mint Care & Pruning
There are some differences between growing basil and mint to be mindful of.
Both basil and mint thrive with regular pruning and by taking leaves from nodes you can encourage a bushier plant. With mint it is essential if you want to avoid that woodiness towards the base. In late Autumn / Fall prune back your mint hard to allow for the frosts to do their worse.
Mulching mint is not essential but it will help with the heavier winter rains. Wet and soggy roots will kill off a plant eventually, or at least reduce the foliage for the following year. Basil and mint can be grown indoors and require plenty of daylight, but not direct sunlight.
Harvesting leaves prior to a heavy frost will mean you can dry them for your spice rack all year round. For a full guide on using a dehydrator to o this click here.
Basil Vs Mint Pests & Problems
We get asked about dying basil more than any other plant, verses mint which will out live us all no doubt!
Soggy roots are to be avoided with both basil and mint, but basil will not tolerate this for very long at all with overwatering and under watering being causes for death. Mint is prone to out growing any pot and the runners will arrive anywhere if left to grow in the ground unattended.
Both basil and mint can struggle in very long hot days with sun scorched leaves. Really it is basil that is the weakest link and growing in a hydroponic system works well for mitigating a lot of these issues.
Basil Vs Mint In The Kitchen
Flavor wise there are some important differences between basil and mint.
Basil is peppery and anise like with mint notes. Mint is full on menthol with a few notes of pepper depending on the variety you grow. Mint leaves are serrated at the edge with veins running down them and hairs. Basil is more rounded with less pronounced veins and are hair free.
Fresh or Dried Basil Vs Mint
Basil does have a slightly different flavor when dried, sort of more concentrated but also a lot more intense.
Both basil and mint are soft leaf herbs which can be used fresh or dried. When used dried they hold their flavor and a ratio of 3:1 is required. 1 tablespoon fresh = 1 teaspoon dried. Offering a refreshing and light note to any dish, mint is also used in sweet dishes.
Storing dried basil or mint will be easy with an airtight container and keeping in a cool dark place. The intensity of flavor should last around a year this way, just enough time to grow and harvest the next years batch.
Basil Vs Mint Nutritional Content
The values below are based on 100g serving of each fresh herb. This is an unlikely amount to consume in one sitting, but if you aim for adding more to your diet it will hopefully give you an idea of the value you will be adding. Just don’t feel pressured to try and eat as much basil or peppermint as you would do spinach or lettuce!
Values taken with kind thanks from Nutritionvalue.org. The percentages included are based on an RDA but are not specific to individual’s needs.
|Basil –||Mint –|
|Calcium 177.00 mg 14 %||Calcium 243.00mg 19 %|
|Iron 3.17 mg 18 %||Iron 5.08mg 28 %|
|Magnesium 64.00 mg 16 %||Magnesium 80.00 mg 20 %|
|Folate 68mcg 17%||Folate 114.00 mcg 28 %|
|Vitamin A 264.00 mcg 29 %||Vitamin A 212.00 mcg 24 %|
|Vitamin B6 0.155 mg 12 %||Vitamin B 6 0.129 mg 10 %|
|Vitamin C 18.0 mg 20 %||Vitamin C 31.8 mg 35 %|
|Manganese 1.148 mg|
|Manganese 1.176 mg 51 %|
|Vitamin K 414.8 mcg 346 %||Vitamin K Trace|
Whilst peppermint is higher in calcium, iron, folate, vitamin C & manganese, basil is higher in vitamin A, vitamin B6 & vitamin K. Overall all though I think they are both much more highly packed with minerals and vitamins than I may have thought before researching more thoroughly.
This is not to say that we should be drinking mojito’s to increase our iron intake, but it does show that the history of medicinal uses may be a little bit more justified. Using fresh basil or mint leaves as garnish will increase your intake of these essential vitamins and minerals, but remember the small quantities that we will be eating them in.
Both basil and mint have a place in our herb gardens. With basil needing a little bit of care and caution with regards to watering and mint needing to be kept under control from those pesky runners. Both make perfect container herbs and basil will need refreshing each year, with mint living on.
Using both mint and basil together in cooking can make new and exciting combinations of flavors and give your diet a much needed boost of vitamins and minerals. For inspiration for using mint in new and exciting ways have a look at an article I wrote a while back, here. If you are stuck for new ideas for basil then have a look at a more recent article I have put together here. But I encourage you to grow your own and get your garden full of these useful and tasty herbs.
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