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PEPPERMINT

Mentha piperita

Family : Labiatae

Description

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a hairy perennial more commonly used in medicines and confections.

Botany

Peppermint has underground stolons and square pink or red stems of about 90 cm height. The leaves are red-tinted, oval, pointed, deeply toothed and long-stalked and the white flowers are on long spikes.

Cultivation

The mints are always propagated from surface or underground runners, as plants produced from seed are not uniform. Early in spring the runners should be set in a moist but not soggy soil, either in beds or in rows. Unless confined by boards set several inches in the ground the underground runners will spread in a few seasons to cover several times the area originally set. No special care is necessary except to keep the bed free of weeds and grass. As the plants grow rapidly, fresh green sprigs are available for use as needed from early in spring until late in fall. The leaves and flowering tops should be cut for drying when the plants begin to flower.

Culinary use

For culinary use the leaves and stems are gathered before flowering and in full flower for distillation of oil. The upper part of the plant may be tied in small bundles and hung up, or the leaves and flowering tops spread on a screen and dried in the shade. As soon as the leaves and stems are brittle, any excess stems should be removed and the clean dry leaves and flowering tops packed in a closed container.

Medicinal and other use

The leaves of the various species and varieties impart their pleasing flavours to lamb, peas, cream of pea soup, tea, and fruit drinks. Essential oil is used to flavour confectionery, liqueurs and pharmaceutical products, and to scent cosmetics. It is the most valuable of all mints, with great cooling properties due to its high content of menthol. It is used to treat gastric and digestive disorders, and nervous complaints like tension and insomnia.

 

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