What is Mint?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Mint is found in some lip balms.
Mint is found in some lip balms.

An herb is a plant whose leaves, seeds, or flowers are used for flavoring food or in medicine. Other applications of herbs include cosmetics, dyes, and perfumes. The word derives from the Latin herba, meaning "green crops." With species in the mint genus native to Australia, North America, Europe, and Asia, mint is an herb that includes more varieties than just the popular spearmint and peppermint. In fact, many other herbs used as seasonings come from the same family (Lamiaceae), including basil, catnip, oregano, rosemary, and sage; while wintergreen, which might be expected to be related to mint, is actually from a different family.

Mint is used in drinks like the mint julep.
Mint is used in drinks like the mint julep.

History. Unsurprisingly, mint was chewed as a breath freshener early in history. Ovid recounts the story of a nymph named Minthe or Menthe who was about to be seduced by Hades, God of the Underworld, when his wife, Persephone, coming upon them, turned her into a plant. Mint was used in Ancient Greek funeral rites, as well as in an ancient fermented barley drink.

Description. Members of the mint family produce green bushy plants. While most varieties attain a height of 1-3 feet, they are nevertheless sometimes used as ground cover. Leaf color varies by species, and the flowers may be white, pink, or lavender.

Mint leaves may be featured in teas.
Mint leaves may be featured in teas.

Gardening. The members of the mint family are hardy perennials with a tendency to spread, and gardeners may choose to confine them to containers for this reason. Popular types include spearmint, peppermint, and bergamot, as well as citrus- and pineapple-flavored mint, and even chocolate mint. They grow well in moist, well-drained soil, and in partial shade. Because mints cross-pollinate, producing seeds that are often of poor quality and not true to type, it is best to deadhead the flowers and to propagate using division, root cuttings, or runners.

In Greek mythology, Hades is the god of the underworld and the chief caretaker of the abode of the dead.
In Greek mythology, Hades is the god of the underworld and the chief caretaker of the abode of the dead.

Food and other uses. Many varieties of fresh and dried mint are used as seasonings in a variety of cuisines, from Indian and Southeast Asian curries and Middle Eastern tabouleh to Greek keftedes, British lamb with mint sauce, and the Southern US mint julep. Leaves are also infused to make a drink variously referred to as herbal tea or tisane, and as the flavoring component for mint jelly. While mint is used as flavoring in toothpaste and medicines to treat stomach complaints, menthol, made from mint oil, is used in over-the-counter products for coughs, in lip balms, and in mouthwashes. The variety of mint called pennyroyal should not be ingested, but is used as a flea repellent.

Preservation. Drying is not ideal for every herb, but it works well for mint. Harvest before the plants bloom; cutting the stems; tying them together; and hanging them from hooks on or near the ceiling for about a week in a warm, dry, dark location until they are crisp. Some people use the leaves only, while others use the stems as well. Store in a cool, dark place in an airtight container with a desiccant added.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

Discussion Comments

anon148215

This helped a little with my science project research paper so yay! Not much I mint but it got it all started like the first domino that falls in the domino affect. So thanks.

jabuka

There are two other mints I know of, apple mint, it has rounded leaves, and Bowles mint used mostly in mint sauces.

Autumn

What are the different types of mint other than peppermint and spearmint?

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    • Mint is found in some lip balms.
      By: Nazzu
      Mint is found in some lip balms.
    • Mint is used in drinks like the mint julep.
      By: wollertz
      Mint is used in drinks like the mint julep.
    • Mint leaves may be featured in teas.
      By: Dionisvera
      Mint leaves may be featured in teas.
    • In Greek mythology, Hades is the god of the underworld and the chief caretaker of the abode of the dead.
      By: Anatoly Vartanov
      In Greek mythology, Hades is the god of the underworld and the chief caretaker of the abode of the dead.