UPDATED AUGUST 3, 2019
I know what mint is and I am sure you know it too. But, how many types of mint are there? Are you curious? Join me to find out more about mint leaves – besides its varieties, you will get to know the mint leave benefits and how to use mint leaves, should you have plenty of them. Waste not.
Start off with a short story – I was doing my grocery shopping the other day when I saw bunches of mint leaves at the herbs counter. Upon a closer look, it was labelled as peppermint. Looked at another, it was spearmint and another was apple mint. Exactly how many types of mint are there?
Even though you know what mint is, still I’ll explain it here.
What is mint
Mint is a perennial and wide-spreading herb that has a tangy fragrance with a strong menthol aroma. Known to have originated from Asia and the Mediterranean region, now mint plants grow on every continent except Antarctica. They grow well in both sunny and shady areas, and exceptionally well in moist, cool locations.
The leaves and stems are harvested for numerous culinary and medicinal uses. They can be used fresh or dried.
Fresh mint leaves are best consumed on the same day they are harvested. Although they can be stored in the fridge for several days. They are commonly used in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking.
Dried mint leaves have a longer shelf life when stored in a cool, dark place in an airtight container. Mostly used in American and British dishes.
Click here to read more about fresh herbs vs dried herbs
The term “mint” is an umbrella term for the Mentha plant family that includes spearmint, peppermint, orange mint, apple mint, pineapple mint and many more. Each variety has its own distinct flavour.
Types of Mint
There are many different types of mint but share one primary characteristic – a bright green herb with oval-shaped leaves that release a refreshing aroma when bruised. It is estimated that 20 species existed with hundreds of varieties. The tastes and uses of these plants vary.
Here are the names
- Apple Mint – smells like Granny Smith apples => used to make tea, added to salads or as a garnish.
- Basil Mint – spicy scent with light notes of basil => pairs well with eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini.
- Chocolate Mint – minty with subtle chocolate-like flavour => goes well with desserts and as a garnish for ice cream and sorbets.
- Curly Mint – the flavour is similar to spearmint => used in most culinary dishes.
- Ginger Mint – apple/ginger fragrance => excellent for making tea and a great addition to the salad. Also called Scotch mint.
- Japanese Peppermint – strong menthol fragrance => used to flavour tea.
- Lemon Mint – refreshing minty lemon scent => used in the mint sauce or fruit dishes.
- Orange Mint – citrus flavoured => used to flavour teas and fruit dishes.
- Pennyroyal – strong peppermint scent => used as flea deterrent or pest repellant. Do not consume.
- Peppermint – intense sharp-minty flavour => used to flavour candies and desserts and to make hot or cold tea, cordials and liqueurs or as a garnish for punch or fruit.
- Pineapple Mint – young leaves have a tropical fruit flavour, older leaves are mintier => use young leaves to flavour salads, cool drinks and fruit desserts.
- Spearmint – strong flavour and fragrance => used to flavour sweets and beverages and in cooking for many recipes.
- Water Mint – scent can vary from musty to strong peppermint => used to flavour tea.
Since peppermint and spearmint are the most common types, let’s get to know more about them.
Peppermint is the best-known variety of mint and it is a hybrid of spearmint and water mint. It has a sharper flavour and more intense aroma, giving off a classic smell which comes from menthol when its leaves are bruised.
Spearmint is the most widely grown of all mints and widely used for culinary purpose. It has a sweet taste that comes from carvone. Its most widespread use is Wrigley’s® Spearmint Gum.
Both spearmint and peppermint have menthol in them but peppermint contains a higher menthol content that is 40% versus .05% in spearmint.
In fact, peppermint and spearmint can be used interchangeably in sweet and savoury dishes alike. Mint and lamb is a classic pairing. Mint goes well with roasted meat too and other lighter dishes like a simple vegetable dish. It is also good for yoghurt lassi, tea and desserts. Obviously, mint and chocolate are the best of friends.
Mint Leave Benefits
Mint has a long history in treating stomach and digestion problems and to freshen breath. The dried leaves were used to whiten teeth and as a pest repellent. Today, mint is still being used in medicine, beauty products and as food flavourings.
Mint contains a high amount of nutrients, vitamins and minerals which are vital to maintaining good health. Rich in vitamins A and C, with a smaller amount of vitamin B2. Its minerals include calcium, zinc, copper and magnesium.
Peppermint is used in curing sore throats and runny noses. The oil of this plant is considered to be an excellent rub for tired or strained muscles. Used in aromatherapy, the scent helps to relieve stress and promote emotional stability.
Peppermint leaves give a pleasant scent and a cool sensation to the skin when incorporated into shampoos, soaps and body washes. Many types of toothpaste also rely on it to help leave a pleasant taste in the mouth.
Peppermint helps to get rid of gas and bloating too. Click here to read more.
Spearmint is used to treat nausea and relieve muscle spasms. The sweet flavour of this mint makes an excellent beverage for cold, cough and fever. Also, the mild brings in a relaxant property for good sleep and calming nerves in the body.
How to Use Mint leaves
At home, there are many simple and common ways to use mint leaves.
A calming cup of tea – steep a few sprigs of mint to two cups of hot water. Alternatively, add a few mint leaves to a cup of tea.
Refreshing cold drink – add a bunch of fresh mint leaves into drinking water or lemonade.
Else, make a fruit smoothie. Perfect pairings are:
- watermelon + mint
- strawberry + mint
- mango + pineapple + mint
- apple + cucumber + mint
An enticing bowl of salad – chop a few mint leaves or use as a whole and add to your salad.
Add mint to your regular pesto sauce to jazz it up.
Make a warm bowl of soup using mint leaves and egg. Add 2 cups of fresh mint leaves into 2 cups of boiling water or chicken stock. Let boil for 2 – 5 minutes. Stir in lightly beaten egg. Serve warm.
Other interesting ways to use mint leaves
Make your own herb butter – to be precise, mint butter. Blend mint leaves and butter until well combined. Goes well on toast, mashed potatoes and fish. Learn more about herb butter.
Prepare your own herb-infused oil. Peppermint infused olive oil can be whisked into vinaigrette or drizzled on steamed vegetables.
Fancy ice cubes to impress your guests. Simply freeze mint leaves in ice cubes and pop into lemonade or any preferred drinks.
Make your own mint syrup to flavour your drinks or desserts. Simply boil mint leaves with one part sugar to two parts water.
Mint is a natural insect repellant. Place sprigs of mint by doors and windows or better still, place a pot of mint plant near a doorway, kitchen counter or dining table.
Relieve sinus congestion with peppermint steam. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add mint leaves and turn off the heat. Lean over the pot, drape a towel over your head and breathe in the minty steam.
Enjoy a stress-relieving bath by adding a handful of fresh mint leaves to the tub. The menthol that present in mint is a natural muscle relaxant, helps to relieve stress, aches and pains.
There are so many wonderful uses for mint leaves. Why not plant your own? You may also use mint ornamentally to beautify your home and garden. Grow it as a ground cover or potted plant.
Caution though: When planted in good soil, mint grows wild and can overtake garden or lawn. It is advisable to grow mint in pots. Here are 4 Tips to Control Mint in the Garden.
Are you interested to grow herbs indoors year-round? Click here to find out how.
Did I entice you to buy a mint plant? Yes. Click on below to see what is available for you!
Mint is NOT recommended for people with heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) because it relaxes the muscle in the oesophagus and stomach, thus worsen the acid reflux.
Fresh peppermint leaves or peppermint oil should not be given to children because the menthol content can be dangerous to their growing bodies.
Never consume pennyroyal oil because it is so potent that it should be considered toxic.
Myth about Mint
Before I leave, I would like to share a Greek myth with you.
Greek mythology contains many stories of the transformation of individuals into plants and trees. Mint plant is one of them.
Mint derives from the Greek mythical character Minthe, who was a river nymph. Hades, God of the Underworld, fell in love with Minthe. When his wife Persephone found out, she turned Minthe into a plant so that everyone would walk all over her and crush her. Not able to undo the spell, Hades gave Minthe an aromatic scent so that he could smell her and be near her when people walked on her.
Now you know much more about mint leaves. How to use mint leaves? Tell me! Perhaps you may have betters ways. Do share with us your experiences with mint. What do you use them for? Any recipes to share? Now go make yourself a refreshing mint drink. I look forward to having one too.
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From the Corner of My Home – Spice Up Your Life with Herbs and Spices