Most Mints We Encounter in the Kitchen are Either Spearmint or Peppermint.
Mint
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The Mints most used in cooking are Spearmint and Peppermint.  They are part of the very large Mint family (Lamiaceae) which includes an astonishing number of the most commonly known herbs—BasilRosemarySageMarjoramThymeOreganoLavender and Savory

Spearmint and Peppermint are sometimes called true mints, to distinguish them from other family members.  True mints are grown for their fresh, clean scent and the flavor of their leaves.  Spearmint has a pungent, slightly sweet flavor, peppermint a “clean” menthol smell and taste.  Peppermint, which is actually a hybrid of Spearmint and Watermint, is widely used in medicine and cosmetics and makes a wonderfully refreshing tea.

True mints are perennial natives of Europe and Asia.  They love moisture, spread rapidly and easily, and grow wild in many temperate zones.  Mints have been considered valuable in many different ways for most of human history.  In the Bible, there is reference to using mint to pay taxes.  Greeks valued it for its medicinal properties, and Romans would scatter the leaves about as a room freshener.

Season

In cooler climates, Mint starts thriving in the Spring, making it a Spring Vegetable. In warmer climates Mint can continue growing all year long.

Mint is usually available fresh in most markets all year long due to greenhouses and imports.

Availability

Mint is available year round.

Cultivation

Used for its aromatic and flavorful leaves which are veined, ovoid, serrated and indented. Mint is easy to grow-maybe too easy, as any frustrated gardener can attest.  In fact, it grows like a weed.   Given free rein, it will take over a lot of your garden, and like any good weed, even if you uproot it, it tries to sneak back in.

You can grow mint from cuttings placed in a glass of water.  Once the roots begin to form, it can be planted in the garden, at which point you can begin the fight to keep it from taking over the vegetable patch.

Varieties

There are 25 species and hundreds of varieties and hybrids of mint, and they often adapt and evolve into new types.  Two of the most common types are Apple MintWater MintOrange MintCorn MintBasil MintLemon Mint, and Pennyroyal (which has toxic oil).

Purchasing

When buying fresh Mint, the leaves should be dark green with no yellow or brown spots.  Dried Mint leaves will be more faded, but should still retain a little green color.

Storage

Fresh Mint will last about a week refrigerated. It can also be wrapped in foil and plastic and frozen for several months with little loss of flavor.

Culinary Uses

Mint imparts a clean fresh scent and a strong mint flavor with sweet overtones. Mint is used fresh and dried, in both sweet and savory dishes.  It is delicate and bruises easily. Be careful when handling this delicate herb.

Mint appears in ice cream flavors, dessert sauces and cakes (see our recipe for Chilled Georgia Peach Bisque with Mint Chantilly), in savory meat sauces and Salad Dressings.  It is a staple of Mediterranean cooking, an essential element of Gremolata, and often paired with Lemon or Yogurt.  It is used in Vietnamese rice paper rolls, in English cooking with Boiled Potatoes, and is ubiquitous on Kentucky Derby day in the traditional mint juleps.  When substituted for Tarragon in Sauce Béarnaise, the sauce becomes Sauce Paloise, which is also a good accompaniment for Lamb.

Portion Size

Allow 1-2 t of Mint per recipe.

Pairings

Cashews, Basil, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves, Cumin, Dill, Lavender, Lemongrass, Marjoram, Oregano, Paprika, Pepper, Rosemary, Sage, Salt, Sugar, Thyme, Vanilla, Beets, Carrots, Chives, Cilantro, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Endive, Garlic, Ginger, LettuceMushrooms, Olives, Onions, Peas, Peppers, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Radishes, Spinach, Squash, Tomatoes, Zucchini, Blackberries, Coconut, Grapefruit, Grapes, Lemons, Limes, Mangoes, Melons, Nectarines, Oranges, Papaya, Peaches, Pears, Pineapple, Plums, Raspberries, Strawberries, Watermelon, Beef, Chicken, Duck, Eggs, Fish, Lamb, Meats, Mussels, Pork, Poultry, Shellfish, Shrimp, Veal, Buttermilk, Butter, Cheese, Cream, Creme Fraiche, Milk, Yogurt, Beans, Bourbon, Chocolate, Honey, Rice, Soy Sauce, Vinegars, Rice Wine Vinegar, Cider Vinegar, Salads, Soups, Sauces

Substitutes

Basil, Parsley

Nutritional Value USDA
SPEARMINT,FRESH
Amount Per 100g
Calories 44
%Daily Value*
 
0%
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
1%
Sodium 30mg
9%
Potassium 458mg
2%
Total Carbohydrate 8g
24%
Dietary Fiber 6g
Sugars 0g
Protein 3g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition

Medicinally, Mints are especially helpful in relieving anything digestion-related —upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and flatulence.  Mint oil is used in many cosmetic preparations and aromatherapy.  Mint shows up in toothpaste, soap, mouthwash and chewing gum.  Mint is rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin C and contains a number of minerals including ManganesePotassium and Calcium.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes