Mentha x piperita

There are many varieties of mint in the Lamiaceae family with various scents and colors and shapes. One trait they all share is a square stem. Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs lists twelve species, but there are three groupings which will be of primary interest to the crafter or cook. They are Peppermint, M. x piperita; Spearmint, M. spicata, (the Doublemint™ gum mints); and Apple mint, M. suaveolens. Popular varieties include Bergamot mint, M. x piperita 'Citrata', and Pineapple mint, M. suaveolens 'Variegata'.

Most mints are hardy perennials. There is no challenge starting mint from a cutting, and most people are very careful to plant each variety in a  contained area, either in a pot on a surface through which roots will be unable to escape to the ground, or in a remote spot where vigorous growth and rampant spreading is not a problem.

Mint owes its name to the Grecian nymph Menthe who was loved by Pluto who had a jealous wife. One day Persephone, the wife, flew into a rage and, justly or unjustly, changed Menthe into a lowly, sprawling plant easily trampled underfoot.

Folklore has it that autumn placement of  mint sprigs in the attic eaves or some essential oil of mint spread along the baseboards in the kitchen are deterrents to mice who will look elsewhere for a winter home.

Those who love mint will find no end of culinary opportunities, including salads, fruits, vegetables, drinks, desserts, jellies, and vinegars. Mint is commonly combined with peas, iced tea, and lamb, not to mention the ever popular Derby Day julep. Try pulverizing fresh mint in your blender with water, then add fresh lemon juice and sugar to make a delicious minted lemonade.

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