Refreshing Spearmint Leaves
Mint has been an intricate part of many cultures throughout the ages and spearmint leaves have come through with the same popularity as then. It is a multi-purpose herb for culinary use, for medicinal purposes and for its fragrance as well as freshening a hot, humid day.
In medieval times wives grew spearmint leaves to strew on the floor (along with other aromatic herbs) to sweeten the air. When set among other fragrant herbs and/or flowers in small bouquets they were used by the upper class to ward off foul winds, bad spirits and for protection against disease.
In Roman monuments commemorating dead heroes it is retold that Pluto fell in love with the lovely nymph Minthe. When his wife discovered the affair she crushed the nymph underfoot turning her into a plant. Pluto, unable to change the circumstances could only bestow upon his lover a beautiful fragrance.
It was the Romans who introduced spearmint leaves to the English, and the English who made it popular in use, both to flavor fresh garden vegetables in the summer and to make mint jelly or sauce used traditionally to accompany lamb or mutton dishes. It also goes well with duck, pork, chicken or veal. And it adds a refreshing taste to fruits and/or fruit salads, beans or lentils; not to mention mint juleps and many more mint flavored drinks.
The fresh flavor of spearmint leaves add a sweet character that blends well with much more than green tea due to its ability to bring out the other flavors in a dish. For the avid grower it can be harvested twice in the summer-June and late August and can be grown in almost all types of weather.
Aside from spearmint leaves, and aside from peppermint, other varieties of mint leaves include pineapple mint, horse mint, chocolate mint, apple mint, orange mint, field mint, and bergamot mint, though many claim the only one that belongs on the spice shelf is spearmint. Peppermint is responsible for the fine oils and extracts.
Growing spearmint leaves in the home garden is pretty easy-keeping it contained is another story. If you do not take care, this prolific plant will take over your entire garden. The fragrant wandering plant definitely needs to be kept in its place or somewhere by itself where it can happily grow without interbreeding with any other mint plants.
Old time gardeners believed mints of all types repelled such pests as aphids and flea beetles. If you have trouble with unwanted rodents (in winter)-mice in particular, plant mint in areas around the house where the plant can grow without being a bother but in a place convenient enough to be a deterrent. You can also spread peppermint, European pennyroyal or spearmint leaves in areas where rodents are a problem.
Aside from an herbal tea offering many health benefits chewing fresh spearmint leaves will freshen your breath; or they can be crushed for the relief of the itch and pain of insect stings/bites. Chapped hands can be softened and soothed by an infusion of warm water and spearmint leaves, while a cup of spearmint, peppermint or orange bergamot tea can ease an upset stomach.