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Wild Mint

~ Wild Mint ~

Mentha spp.

There are so many varities of Mint in the world, all of them known for their strong, fresh, ‘minty’ smell & taste.

Apparently when Persephone discovered that Pluto was in love with the nymph Minthe, she was so jealous that she turned Minthe into a lowly plant underfooot. Pluto was gutted and could not undo the spell, so he instead sweetened Minthe so that everytime she was trodden on, she would smell sweeter. Later the name Minthe changed to Mentha which became the genus name of the Mint family.

However Mint was no lowly plant. The Pharisees paid tithes with Mint and the Romans crowned themselves with Peppermint.

Mint has often been used in kitchens and sickrooms due to it’s strong smell, and Pennyroyal was often spread about in the Middle Ages to get rid of fleas. During the 18th century Mint became an important medicinal herb, used for curing colic, digestive problems etc whilst Peppermint was drunk to cure headaches, heartburn, indigestion, gas, sweat out fevers, relieve menstrual cramps, & to promote good sleep.

Peppermint, Spearmint & Pennyroyal are the types believed to have the strongest medicinal properties. Beware that Pennyroyal should only be consumed in small quantities and not when pregnant.

Pictured is wild Apple Mint (M. suaveolens), with furry leaves, found growing near the river in the Tararua’s this week. Last week I found a whole lot of what I believe is Field Mint (M. arvensis) whilst foraging for blackberries. At home I grow Peppermint (M. piperita) for delicious herbal teas, common garden mint (M. sachalinensis) to add to potato dishes & mint sauce, and I stopped growing Spearmint (M. Spicata) as I don’t really like the flavor which is very bitey. Mint is really nice sliced into a salad, infused into cordials & drinks, or added to herbal teas for it’s flavor & cooling properties.

Mint likes to grow in damp, shady places. In the wild you’ll find them growing near streams & rivers, where they can keep their feet wet. Beware that Mint can spread very quickly (via runners) and is invasive.

Mint is in the Lamiaceae family, and all plants in this family has square stems, which is a key identifier. Other plants in this family (with square stems) include: Self Heal, Lemon Balm, Lavender, Sage, Rosemary, Marjoram, Oregano, Hyssop & even Thyme.