Mint (Mentha species; Labiatae)

Description

Perennial, mostly hardy herbaceous plants, with wide-spreading roots, stems to 1—2 ft (30—60 cm), and rounded or pointed leaves. Inconspicuous purplish or white flowers in July-August. Species cultivated: M. spicata, common mint, spearmint; M. rotundifolia, apple mint, smelling of apples; M. citrata ‘Eau de Cologne’; M. rofundi folia variegata, green and cream edged leaves; pineapple mint, will not survive winter cold and damp. M. piperita, pepper mint.; M. aquatica, water mint. Origin, Europe including Britain.

Uses

Mainly culinary, the leaves having varying fragrances and flavours as above. Leaves contain menthol and are good for summer drinks, and M. citrata is said to be an ingredient of Chartreuse liqueur. M. piperita leaves make a good digestive tea, so also does M. aquatica. Pepper mint is much used also in confectionery.

History

Used by the Greeks and Romans, mentioned in the Bible, and widely used in Britain since at least the 9th century, when it was included in the monastic list of herbs. It has always been popular in this country up to, and including, the present day. Chaucer mentioned it in a poem, and Culpeper said that ‘Applied with salt, it helps the bites of mad dogs’.

Cultivation

Plant between autumn and spring; propagate by

division at these seasons also, or lift rooted stems and plant these. Damp soil is preferred, but it grows so easily that it needs curbing rather than encouraging, except for pineapple mint, which is slow to grow and less vigorous. It is advisable to root cuttings of this and keep them in the greenhouse through the winter; all will grow well in containers. If rust infects the plants, (small red-brown spots on leaves and stems) destroy them and plant afresh in a different place.

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