Member of the family Lamiaceae
As with the other herbs there are a great variety of mints. Mints are grown all over the world. I will list a few:
- Carinthian mint (Mentha carinthiaca)
- Eau de Cologne mint (Mentha citrata)
- Japanese mint (Mentha arvensis var. piperascensvar)
- Horsemint or Silver mint (Mentha longifolia)
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
- Pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens)
- Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
Peppermint is the one with the most typical mint scent – pure and refreshing.
Other mints vary in fragrance and taste from a hint of oranges (Mentha citrata) to pineapples (Mentha suaveolens), and are more popular as teas than as culinary herbs.
Mints are mostly perennial herbs. They have wide-spreading underground and overground roots. The leaves, which colors range from dark green to purple are arranged in opposite pairs.
The flowers are white to purple. The plants spread easily and it is often smart to restrict the growing area.
Menthol is the main ingredient of the essential oil of peppermint, and menthol together with menthyl acetate are responsible for the fragrance and taste of the plant.
Japanese mint is also a good source of menthol, and Japanese Peppermint Oil is known for its many useful medical properties and also as a component of chewing gum.
The name mint is said to originate from a Greek nymph called Minthe, who was transformed into the plant by the jealous Persephone, wife of Pluto – the Lord of the underworld.
Mint has been used since ancient times. The Romans brought mint with them, and spread the use of the herb simultaneously as they expanded the Roman Empire.
Mint is mentioned in all early medieval herbals and lists of plants.
The English botanist Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) gives nearly forty distinct maladies for which mint is “singularly good.”
Today we all know the mint flavor of tooth paste, chewing gum and chocolate.
Mint should be harvested on a dry, sunny day, in the late morning, when all traces of dew have disappeared.