One of the most common herbs and personally one of my first and favourite herbs to have in my herb garden is mint.
In Jamaica, we have the Jamaican peppermint which has been by far my favourite mint to use when I want a nice boost to my digestive system in the mornings.
It is also a key ingredient in our popular Harmony Tea Blend.
Otherwise, my next favourite method of consuming mint is in the form of sweets, namely chewing gum. Not to mention the prevalence of mint in our toothpaste as well as its use as an aromatic fragrance in various household products.
I honestly cannot imagine living my life without mint. Luckily, with a bit of indoor gardening, I won't ever have to.
But what exactly is this mint? and where does it come from?
Read below to learn all about this remarkable herb.
Mentha, the scientific name for mint, is a genus of plants in the family Lamiaceae. It got its name from the Greek mythological figure Minthe, a Naiad-nymph who was transformed into the fragrant and aromatic herb.
For millennia, mint has been used as a symbolism of hospitality. In ancient Greece, it was rubbed on tables to welcome visitors. The herb was used to clear the air in temples and homes. In the Middle East, mint tea was and still is offered to guests upon their arrival.
The mint plant is common and a favourite of many gardeners, so it's easy to grow your own.
Mint is mostly grown for its aromatic leaves. Oval and serrated, the leaves of mint are indented with veins and come to a point. They impart a fresh clean scent and a strong mint flavour with sweet overtones. Leaves are commonly bright to dark green in colour but some varieties can be purple, grey-green or even pale yellow. If allowed to flower mint will produce white and lavender to purple petite blooms. Young leaves will have the best flavour and texture, leaves allowed to mature on the plant for too long will become bitter and woodsy in flavour.
As an herb, mint is gluten-free and suitable for vegan, vegetarian, and paleo diets.
Each variety of mint has been traditionally used to treat numerous ailments, ranging from an upset stomach to nervousness. Modern medical research has focused on peppermint oil, which is now often sold as a dietary supplement capsule, medicinal tea, or topical preparation.
The cool taste and sensation mint imparts is a result of the naturally occurring compound, menthol contained in the herb.
The major mint varieties used in cooking and cosmetics are:
Mentha arvenisis (Japanese mint, field mint, corn mint): thrives in tropical and Mediterranean climates, used fresh or grown for its essential oil.
Mentha piperita: (peppermint): a hybrid of three other mint species, now grown extensively for its essential oil and for its use (fresh and dried) in cooking.
Mentha spicata: (spearmint): a hybrid of two other mint species, grown also for its essential oil and its usefulness in cooking.