Celebrating the Multicultural festivities of December, I thought I would pick an herb or spice which is referenced in the Bible (land of three of the Major Religions of the world) and used in many cuisines around the entire world, as a way of gathering together all the wealth of diversity around us - in true celebration.
"As for the garden of mint, the very smell of it alone recovers and refreshes our spirits" --Pliny the Elder
Meet The Neighbors – The Lamiaceae Family – The Mint Branch!
By Catherine, The Herb Lady - originally from my Newsletter January 18, 2003
Lamiaceae (formerly labiatae) is the well-known and well loved mint Family. Botanically, the members of this family have a square stem, two-lipped flowers, and simple usually undivided leaves. Many are herbs such as lavender, basil, thyme, rosemary, and of course the mints--and it is the mints we will visit with today.
As neighbors, mints are an old established family. Grandma planted them under an old leaky faucet, because they just love to play in the water! One of the few herbs that likes its feet wet, mint needs damp (not wringing wet) soil and a bit of shade in the western summer afternoons. Once established this family of herbs can easily take over the neighborhood. The incredible list of scents and flavors is due in part to its willingness to make new friends, i.e., plant two different side-by-side and you will eventually have a third kind--one reason for separating your beloved favorites to keep them really separated. Cross-strains can produce wonderful results or something not quite so wonderful.
The main group of mints is called by its Latin name Mentha. While the origins are a little sketchy the word Mentha may have come through the Greeks for a wood nymph named Mentha who got on somebody's bad side and was turned into the plant mint.
Now the family members: Mentha piperita (peppermint) and mentha spicata (spearmint) are probably the best known examples, with peppermint being one of the children of the marriage of spearmint and water mint (mentha aquatica). Mint goes back to antiquity. It is mentioned in the Bible and there are several species traceable to ancient Asia and Europe.
There are so many varieties of mint that you essentially pick a flavor and someone will have come up with it. Varieties include most of the citrus family: orange, lime, and grapefruit. There is a chocolate mint (part of the peppermint branch), even Margarita Mint (that smells and tastes like sweet Margarita mix) and variegated Pineapple Mint, to name just a very few.
-- Catherine, The Herb Lady
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