Peppermint is my eighth pick for the most essential herbs you should have in your kitchen.
Mint comes in a plethora of varieties, my favorites being peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint and wintergreen. With such a high concentration of menthol, peppermint is cooling and refreshing.
If any man can name … all the varieties of mint, he must know how many fish swim in the Indian Ocean.” –Walafrid Strabo (c. 808–849)
All mints have square stems with crinkly leaves opposite each other. Peppermint leaves are sharply toothed whereas spearmint is more oblong and rounded.
Peppermint has been used for centuries in teas, desserts, beauty products, and more. Some of its most popular uses in the culinary world are its use in drinks like mint julep, mojito, and a soothing cup of tea. Some savory uses are in tabbouleh, lamb, and sauces. Dessert possibilities are endless including its use in chocolates, jellies, and of course those popular hard candies.
Peppermint is a cooling and refreshing palette cleanser, which is why it is also used as a garnish and as a sorbet served between courses. It is also a wonderful addition to a glass of water.
Beyond its use in the culinary world, peppermint is also great in homemade toothpaste, mouthwash, soaps, and lotions.
Health Benefits of Peppermint
The health benefits of peppermint are many, using both the leaves and oils created from them. They can be used to treat the following:
- respiratory issues
- digestive issues
- freshens bad breath
- can improve mental focus and boost energy
- muscle aches and joint pain.
Peppermint is an excellent source of:
- vitamin A (immune system and vision)
- vitamin C
- omega-3 fatty acids
- iron (anemia prevention)
- magnesium and calcium (for metabolizing the bones)
- potassium (heart and blood pressure)
Peppermint is a hardy plant that will quickly take over your garden or even your entire yard if you aren’t careful. I suggest planting mint in pots to receive all of the benefits, but without the hassle of having to constantly cut it back or dig it out of unwanted areas of your yard.
Most mint likes sun, but can tolerate some shade as well. Growing about 1 to 2 feet tall, mint can easily be grown from clippings.
To harvest your peppermint, always snip off above two leaves as more will sprout from where you cut. The more you harvest, the more will grow. To harvest the entire plant, clip 1 to 3 inches above ground, then you can dry, use in cooking and baking, or make your own peppermint extract.