Magazine article Sunset

Mints for Every Taste

Magazine article Sunset

Mints for Every Taste

Article excerpt

Peppermint and spearmint, of course. But also pineapple, basil, even chocolate

A good mint is a must in the kitchen garden; it brings sparkle to light summer dishes. Traditional spearmint (Mentha spicata) and peppermint (M. piperita) are perhaps the best known, but 22 or so flavored mints are available through mail-order catalogs. They add punch to aioli, fish, fruit salads, jellies, lamb, lemonade, poultry, and tea (see recipe for Raspberry Mint Tea Cooler, page 33). Order in spring for summer and fall harvest.

When selecting mints, keep in mind that some may be known by several names. Blue balsam mint and candy mint, for instance, are thought to be variants of M. p. 'Mitcham', also called black peppermint. But Arthur O. Tucker, a professor of agriculture and natural resources at Delaware State University and an expert on herbs, doesn't believe that they warrant separate names.

MINTS WITH ZEST

Last summer we grew and tasted 17 varieties in Sunset's test gardens in Menlo Park, California. A sampling is shown at left. The eight listed on these pages are some we especially enjoyed. Many nurseries carry a small selection of flavored mints, but for the less common ones, order by mail (for sources, see page 96).

APPLE (M. suaveolens). Fuzzy grayish leaves with delicate apple fragrance. Grows to 2 1/2 feet.

BASIL (M. gracilis). Heart-shaped, highly aromatic leaves that emit a spicy fragrance. Grows to 2 feet.

BLACK PEPPERMINT (M. piperita, sold as peppermint from black 'Mitcham' stock). Dark green leaves, with dark red stems. More intense than standard peppermint. Reaches 1 to 2 feet.

CHOCOLATE (M. piperita). Shiny, dark green leaves with a tingling aftertaste - and, yes, a hint of chocolate. Reaches 1 1/2 to 2 feet.

CURLY (M. spicata 'Crispa'). Wavy, spearmint-flavored foliage on stiff stems. Makes good drink swizzle sticks. Grows to 2 feet.

GINGER (M. arvensis). Soft, pointed, grayish leaves with a fruity flavor. Grows to 2 feet.

LEMON BERGAMOT (M. aquatica, sold as M. piperita; not pictured). Soft, fuzzy foliage with lemony, floral flavor. Grows to 2 feet.

PINEAPPLE (M. suaveolens). Fuzzy, variegated green-and-white leaves with fruity pineapple flavor. Grows to 2 feet.

PLANT IN CONFINED AREAS

Mints spread rapidly by underground stems, so plant them where they can be controlled - in tall, wide pots (so runners don't touch the ground and root) or in raised beds. …

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