Also known as garden mint, green mint and “spiky mint”, spearmint is the most popular of all the mints which is evidenced by its world production which is 1,500 tons per year and growing. Grown in nearly every country on earth, it likes a rich moist soil in sun or partial shade and thrives even when neglected. Spearmint should be kept separate in the garden as it hybridizes freely with other mints and its aggressive spreading roots can be kept in check by planting in bottomless, deep pots which are buried in the soil. Rarely coming true from seed, it is best to propagate spearmint by division and needs to be replaced after 3-4yrs. It is the greenest of the 25 true mints that make up the genus Mentha with crinkled or smooth bright green leaves which are sharply pointed and toothed. A 1-2 foot perennial, spearmint also has red-tinged stems and delicate 5” long lavender flower spikes which are very attractive to bees and butterflies in mid to late summer. In the 16th century, it became spere myne, to describe these spear-shaped flowers that distinguish it from many other mints.
Spearmint is thought to be the oldest of all mints and is the most likely parent of peppermint. Used throughout the ancient world, it is probably the mint mentioned in the Bible and tagged along with the Romans as they conquered new lands and even sailed with the colonists to the New World. Used for everything from keeping milk from curdling to whitening teeth, spearmint has had a long history including the introduction of Wrigley’s famous spearmint gum in 1893 and its use for almost a century resting on the rim of a silver goblet filled with mint juleps, the Kentucky Derby’s official drink. It is also used as a fragrance component in soaps and colognes as well as to discourage pests such as fleas on pets, moths in stored clothing, ants, flies, and mice.
The mint of choice for flavoring food with its mild flavor and fragrance in comparison to peppermint, spearmint is also the original medicinal mint and is good for the digestive system and unlike peppermint, is also a diuretic. It is versatile enough to add a fresh flavor to both savory dishes and desserts and can be added during cooking or tossed with a finished dish. Only the top three to five leaves should be used for cooking and should be harvested when the plant is just about to flower. Fresh leaves can add complexity to a green salad as well as making a delicious, refreshing tea, a minty sauce for lamb and mint jelly. Spearmint may be used with various meats and vegetables but is particularly good with peas, potatoes, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes. Combined with basil, it adds a cooling element to spicy dishes and combined with orange peel makes a great marinade as well as a dressing for spring salads. You can even pass a bowl of fresh sprigs for guests to chew on as an after dinner breath freshener!
Spearmint makes an elegant garnish
either fresh or crystallized
plus is a choice accompaniment
to ice tea
either as a fresh sprig
or combined with half a strawberry
in a lemonade ice cube
Dilute pasteurized, powdered egg white with orange juice until frothy. Paint clean, fresh leaves and flowers with a small brush and then spoon super-fine sugar over leaves. Lay on wax paper and move often to keep from sticking. Dry for a few days, then store in tightly sealed container. Will keep more than a week or up to 6mo in the freezer
2 c pared & chopped cucumbers
1 c plain yogurt
3 Tbs chopped spearmint
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, then cover and chill for 15 to 30 minutes. Stir the mixture again before serving. Makes a cooling dip for fresh vegetables such as peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
Combine 2 egg whites, 1/4tsp cream of tartar and a dash of salt and beat until soft peaks form. Add 2/3c sugar gradually and beat until stiff. Add 1Tbs dried spearmint, green food coloring and a 6oz package of chocolate chips. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Drop cookies onto greased sheet, place in oven and turn off. Leave overnight.
". . . I have given you all things even as the green herbs."