Mint leaves

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What Is Mint?

Mint is an aromatic herb produced by various species of the mint plant (Mentha). Native to the eastern Mediterranean, mint gets its name from a mythic nymph named Minthe (Mintho). Jealous Persephone turned her into a lowly mint plant after she had an affair with Pluto, the god of the underworld. The mint plant is common and a favorite of many gardeners, so it’s easy to grow your own. As an herb, it is gluten-free and suitable for vegan, vegetarian, and paleo diets.

Varieties

Spearmint and curly mint are the varieties most often grown to use as an herb in cooking and beverages. Peppermint is a little too strong to use fresh for most culinary purposes. Instead, it is grown and processed into peppermint oil, which is then used as a flavoring, and it can be further refined into a menthol.

You can find other varieties of mint that have interesting flavors and aromas. Apple mint has an apple scent; orange mint has a citrus flavor; chocolate mint has a bit of chocolate taste.

Mint. Bunch of Fresh green organic mint leaf on wooden table closeup. Selective focus.
Ivannag82 / Getty Images
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Taste

Mint tastes sweet and produces a lingering cool effect on the tongue. Peppermint has a stronger flavor with more menthol taste. The fresh leaves have the most flavor and scent, with those much reduced in dried mint leaves.

Cooking

Fresh mint leaves are usually cut in ribbons (chiffonade) and added to recipes. A stalk with a few tender leaves is placed in a hot or cold beverage and may be crushed (muddled) to release more flavor. Dried mint leaves can be added to a sauce or stew as it simmers. Mint extract is used to give mint flavor baked goods or confections, or to flavor hot chocolate.

Mint informational graphic
The Spruce / Lindsay Kreighbaum

Recipes

Mint traditionally complements lamb and poultry. It is widely used in Middle Eastern and Greek dishes, including salads, side dishes, and sauces. Fresh mint is a favorite for herbal tea.

Uses

In the home, mint has long been used as an aromatic. As a strewing herb, it was scattered around the house as a deodorizer. Today, it is commonly used in sachets and potpourris. Some soap makers add small amounts of dried mint to their soaps, while peppermint oil is sometimes used in aromatherapy to improve alertness.

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