Mint

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Revision as of 13:59, 10 July 2020 by DrinkBoy (talk | contribs) (Spearmint)
This page is very much a work in progress... My goal with this page is to try to list the various "types" of mint that might be used behind the bar by common name (ie. what you would see at a nursery) as well as details on what to expect flavorwise. Plus at the same time help to discuss the overall "mint" concept so that bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts will have a better idea of this rather complicated subject.

Mint is an increasingly common ingredient in several different cocktails, the Mojito and Mint Julep perhaps being the most well known. It is part of the plant family "Lamiaceae", which includes Rosemary, Lavender, Thyme, Hyssop, Marjoram, Oregano, and several others.

When purchasing mint in the store, you typically only see the label "Mint", which can be confusing since there are multiple types of mint, with different characteristics and preferred usages. "Spearmint" and "Peppermint" are the primary mint varieties, and the store bought mint will almost always be one of these two. The problem however is that often you are wanting either one or the other, and there are many uses where it probably isn't the best idea to switch them. For mixed drinks you typically want Spearmint, while for making a tea you often are wanting Peppermint.

Primary Mints

Spearmint

Mentha spicata[1] is one of the more common and popular forms of mint, and is popularly used in beverages. The menthol content in spearmint is 0.5%, and it also contains "Carvone" (also found in Caraway and Dill) which has a sweet minty aroma.

Peppermint

Mentha × piperita[2]

Apple Mint

Mentha suaveolens[3][4]

Mojito / Kentucky Colonel / Cuban / Yerba Buena / Hierbabuena

Mentha × villosa Huds.[5] Apparently a hybrid between Spearmint and Apple Mint.

This may be the most confusing of the various mint categories. It "appears" as though Mojito Mint may be the same as Kentucky Colonel, with both of them being the variation of mint used in Cuba for making mojitos. After doing a little digging into "Mojito" mint, it appears that most stories about its origin point to Catherine Nasmith[6], who in 2006 was visiting Cuba, drinking Mojitos, and was able to smugg... er... bring back with her some of the mint used in her drink. This was then propagated and became the "Mojito Mint" we see available today. Most of the reports I have found so far, are from nuserys, and all have virtually the same text of: "thanks to Toronto mojito enthusiast Catherine Nasmith who visited Cuba in 2006 we now have the authentic plant from Cuba". I'm still trying to see if I can find an original recounting of the story in order to get the facts straight.

Bergamot / Eau de Cologne

Mentha Citrata[7] Not to be confused with Bergamot orange!

Chocolate Mint[8]

Mentha × piperita f. Citrata 'Chocolate'

Pineapple Mint

Mentha suaveolens 'Variegata'[9] A variant of Apple Mint, has leaves which are variegated white on the edges.

Ginger Mint

Mentha × gracilis[10]


Mentha

It will be difficult to fully examine mint as a broad set of varieties without having to get into plant taxonomy a little bit. It will also be difficult to fully and properly detail the taxonomy names off these mints. The further I dig into this, the more confusing information I find. As this article evolves, I will attempt to draw all of these naming differences together, and to try to find appropriate collaborating information to back this up.

Tracing the full taxonomy down to "Mentha" we have:[11]

  • Kingdom: "Plantae" (Plants)
    • Subkingdom: "Tracheobionta" (Vascular plants)
      • Superdivision: "Spermatophyta" (Seed plants)
        • Division: "Magnoliophyta" (Flowering plants)
          • Class: Magnoliopsida "Dicotyledons" (Seed grows with two embryonic leaves)
            • Subclass: "Asteridae"
              • Order: "Lamiales"
                • Family: "Lamiaceae" (Mint family - aka: Dead Nettle Tribe)
                  • Genus: "Mentha L." (mint)
                    • Species: "Mentha aquatica L." (water mint)
                    • Species: "Mentha spicata L." (spearmint)
                    • Species: "Mentha × piperita L." (peppermint)

Within genus "Mentha", there are perhaps 24 known and accepted sub-species[12] [13]. Mint, as one species or another, is a native plant almost throughout the world. It is not native in Central or South America, or in mid Africa but it has been introduced to many of these regions[14] [15].

Below "Species" is sometimes "Subspecies" or "Form". After a plant passes through this gauntlet of naming convention, there is often one more label it can utilize "Cultivar". A cultivar name indicates a plant which is basically part of the overall plant taxonomy, but was derived not from standard seed dispersal, but by "cultivation" for a specific trait or characteristic that was noticed. Sometimes a cultivar can stay true to seed (ie. you plant the seeds from the cultivated plant, and the characteristics you cultivated for are present), but often it is necessary to resort to growing from cuttings, or "cloning" in order to retain the desired characteristics. A cultivar name will often be represented by a common/English name in quotes at the end. Here is an example:

Mentha × Piperita f. Citrata 'Chocolate'

The ingredient in mint which provides it's distinctive flavor and aroma is Menthol, which is present in various degrees in all varieties[16].

Below, we will attempt to list the botanical names for the various common names of mint. Some details to understand, which we will attempt to follow, is that (most) of these mints will be of the genus "Mentha" and following that will be the "Species" (ie. "spicata" for Spearmint). In some cases there will be a "×" listed between the Genus and Species, this is an indication that it is a hybrid species. This is why Peppermint is named "Mentha x piperita", to indicate that it is a hybrid. In this case a hybrid of "spicata" and "aquatica". Many of the variously named mints are going to be either part of the spearmint or peppermint family, sometimes without a name that clearly differentiates one from another (but shouldn't they?). In some cases there will be a "f." in front of the "Form/Forma", and following that may be a common name in quotes to indicate that this is a "Cultivar" of that Genus/Species/Form. Example:

Genus Species Form Cultivar
Mentha × Piperita f. Citrata 'Chocolate'

From this, we can see that "Chocolate Mint" is a cultivated variety of peppermint (Mentha × Piperita) from the subspecies/form "Citrata". If we look through the list of various mints (below) we will can see that this must be closely related to "Strawberry Mint", which has the name of: Mentha Spicata f. Citrata "Strawberry".

Hopefully all of this doesn't make things more confusing then it already may have, so now lets dive into the various types of mint you might see around.

Accepted Mint Species List

Mentha alaica Boriss.[17]
Mentha aquatica L.[18]
Mentha arvensis L.[19]
Mentha atrolilacina B.J.Conn & D.J.Duval[20]
Mentha australis R.Br.[21]
Mentha canadensis L.[22]
Mentha × carinthiaca Host[23]
Mentha cervina L.[24]
Mentha cunninghamii (Benth.) Benth.[25]
Mentha dahurica Fisch. ex Benth.[26]
Mentha × dalmatica Tausch[27]
Mentha darvasica Boriss.[28]
Mentha diemenica Spreng.
Mentha × dumetorum Schult.
Mentha gattefossei Maire
Mentha × gayeri Trautm.
Mentha × gentilis L.
Mentha grandiflora Benth.
Mentha japonica (Miq.) Makino
Mentha × kuemmerlei Trautm.
Mentha laxiflora Benth.
Mentha × locyana Borbás
Mentha longifolia (L.) L.
Mentha micrantha (Fisch. ex Benth.) Heinr.Braun
Mentha pamiroalaica Boriss.
Mentha × piperita L.
Peppermint, also contains the 'cultivars' of
Mentha pulegium L.
Mentha × pyramidalis Ten.
Mentha requienii Benth.
Mentha × rotundifolia (L.) Huds.
Mentha royleana Wall. ex Benth.
Mentha satureioides R.Br.
Mentha spicata L.
Spearmint, also contains the 'cultivars' of Kentucky Colonel, and perhaps Strawberry
Mentha suaveolens Ehrh.
Apple mint, pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens 'Variegata'), woolly mint or round-leafed mint. Synonyms Mentha rotundifolia, Mentha macrostachya, Mentha insularis),
Mentha × suavis Guss.
Mentha × verticillata L.
Mentha × villosa Huds.
Known as Cuban Mint, Mojito Mint, and in Cuba it is commonly referred to as Yerba Buena.
Mentha × villosa-nervata Opiz
Mentha × wirtgeniana F.W.Schultz

Spearmint

Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is one of the more common and popular forms of mint, and is popularly used in beverages. The menthol content in spearmint is 0.5%, and it also contains "Carvone" (also found in Caraway and Dill) which has a sweet minty aroma.

Kentucky Colonel

Mentha spicata 'Kentucky Colonel'. aka: Mentha X villosa, Mentha cordifolia

Strawberry Mint

Mentha spicata f. Citrata ‘Strawberry’ (aka: Mentha × piperita f. Citrata 'Strawberry')


Wild Mint, Corn Mint[29], Field Mint

Mentha arvensis

Banana Mint

Mentha arvensis ‘Banana’

Slender Mint

Mentha diemenica [30] This dwarf, frost hearty, mint is native to Tasmania in Australia. It looks different from other mints, but can be used in most situations where common mint is called for.

Pennyroyal Mint

Mentha pulegium

Horsemint

Mentha longifolia (not an acceptable species classification, actually just spicata)

Corsican Mint

Mentha requieni

Gingermint[31], Redmint, Scotchmint

Mentha × gracilis. This is a sterile hybrid between Mentha arvensis (cornmint) and Mentha spicata. It is most commonly cultivated for steam distillation of its essential oil.[32]

Corsican Mint, Creeping Mint

Mentha requienii[33]

Apple Mint, Pineapple Mint, Wooly Mint, Round-Leaf Mint, Egyptian Mint, Bigleaf Mint

Mentha suaveolens, Mentha × Rotundifolia, Mentha × Niliaca, Mentha Macrostachya, Mentha Insularis

Smith's mint

Mentha × smithiana Graham

Whorled Mint

Mentha × verticillata, a sterile hybrid between water mint and corn mint [34]

Mojito Mint, Cuban Mint, Hairy Mint

Mentha × villosa


Peppermint

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is a hybrid variety, being a cross between Spearmint and Water Mint. It's menthol content is 40%, far more than spearmint, which provides a stronger (and some will say overpowering) flavor, making it better for usages where a mint flavor needs to be predominate, but not in situations where it needs to play well with others.

Peppermint

Mentha x Piperita [35]

Lavender Mint

Mentha × Piperita 'Lavendula'[36]

Candymint

Mentha × piperita 'Candymint'. Stems reddish.

Citrata

Mentha × piperita f. Citrata. Includes a number of varieties including Eau De Cologne Mint, Grapefruit Mint (Mentha suaveolens × piperata), Lemon Mint, and Orange Mint. Leaves aromatic, hairless.

Chocolate Mint

Mentha × piperita f. Citrata 'Chocolate Mint'. Flowers open from bottom up; reminiscent of flavour in Andes Chocolate Mints, a popular confection.

Eau De Cologne Mint

Mentha × piperita f. Citrata 'Eau De Cologne'

Grapefruit Mint

Mentha × piperita f. Citrata 'Grapefruit'

Lemon Mint

Mentha × piperita f. Citrata 'Lemon'

Orange Mint

Mentha × piperita f. Citrata 'Orange'

Crispa

Mentha × piperita 'Crispa'. Leaves wrinkled.

Lavender Mint

Mentha × piperita 'Lavender Mint'.

Lime Mint

Mentha × piperita 'Lime Mint'. Foliage lime-scented.

Varegata

Mentha × piperita 'Variegata'. Leaves mottled green and pale yellow.



Water Mint

Water Mint (Mentha aquatica)[37] appears to have only one claim to fame, in that it is one-half of the lineage of Peppermint.

Watermint

Mentha Aquatica

Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena, which literally means "Good Herb" in Spanish, is a general term that is applied to different herbs in different locales. Almost exclusively it is used to refer to a variety of mint, whichever one grows commonly and wild in that particular region.

Central America
Eau de Cologne mint, is a true mint and can sometimes be referred to as "bergamot mint". It has a strong citrus-like aroma and has a history of being used medicinally as well as culinary usages.
Cuba
Mentha X villosa (aka: "Mentha nemorosa", "Mentha alopecuroides", Large apple mint, foxtail mint, hairy mint, woolly mint, Cuban mint, Mojito mint). While mint does not appear to be native to Cuba, at some time in the past it was introduced and took hold, becoming a popular culinary and medicinal ingredient.
Puerto Rico
Satureja viminea (aka: Bush mint, Jamaican Mint Tree).
Philippines
Mentha Cordifolia (aka: Marsh Mint) [38]
Western United States
Clinopodium douglasii (aka: Satureja douglasii, Micromeria douglasii) is part of the genus Clinopodium, which is loosely related to Mentha, and has a menthol content which allows it to be a "local" substitute for mint in teas and some cooking applications.


References

  1. Spearmint (FlowerDB)
  2. Peppermint (FlowerDB)
  3. Mentha suaveolens (Wikipedia)
  4. Apple Mint (FlowerDB)
  5. Kentucky Colonel (Flower DB)
  6. Catherine Nasmith Mojito Mint (Bing Search)
  7. Eau de Cologne (Wikipedia)
  8. Chocolate Mint (Epicurious)
  9. Pineapple Mint (The National Gardening Association)
  10. Mentha × gracilis (Wikipedia)
  11. Classification for Kingdom Plantae Down to Genus Mentha L. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
  12. Mentha (Plants of the World)
  13. Mentha (The Plant List)
  14. Mentha (Plants of the World)
  15. Mentha (Integrated Taxonomic Information System)
  16. Menthol (Wikipedia)
  17. Mentha alaica Boriss. (The Plant List)
  18. Mentha aquatica L. (The Plant List)
  19. Mentha arvensis L. (The Plant List)
  20. Mentha atrolilacina B.J.Conn & D.J.Duval (The Plant List)
  21. Mentha australis R.Br. (The Plant List)
  22. Mentha canadensis L. (The Plant List)
  23. Mentha × carinthiaca Host (The Plant List)
  24. Mentha cervina L. (The Plant List)
  25. Mentha cunninghamii (Benth.) Benth. (The Plant List)
  26. Mentha dahurica Fisch. ex Benth. (The Plant List)
  27. Mentha × dalmatica Tausch (The Plant List)
  28. Mentha darvasica Boriss. (The Plant List)
  29. Corn Mint (Nature Gate)
  30. Mentha diemenica, Wild Mint, Slender Mint (Australian National Herbarium)
  31. Ginger Mint (Nature Gate)
  32. Gingermint (Wikipedia)
  33. Mentha requienii(Wikipedia)
  34. Whorled Mint (Nature Gate)
  35. Mentha x Piperita (Plants.USDA.Gov)
  36. Ahmed, Shawkat. (2018). Molecular identification of Lavendula dentata L., Mentha longifolia (L.) Huds. and Mentha × piperita L. by DNA barcodes. Bangladesh Journal of Plant Taxonomy. 25. 149-157. 10.3329/bjpt.v25i2.39519.
  37. Water Mint (Nature Gate)
  38. Herba Buena (Healing Wonders of Philippine Medicinal Plants)