February Plant of the Month: Spearmint
Latin name: Mentha spicata (aka M. viridis or M. sativa)
Common name: Spearmint, gardenmint
Usage: There are hundreds of varieties of cultivars within the mint family, many of which are used for their pleasant taste and medicinal value. One such variety is spearmint; utilized for its stimulant, carminative, antimicrobial and antispasmodic properties, with a long history of use in soothing digestive upset (nausea, gas, bloating). Steven Foster states, “Spearmint…has a much longer history of medicinal use than peppermint. It was so commonly grown and used that it was rarely described in herbals; it is known to have been cultivated in every convent garden in Europe by the nineteenth century.” Spearmint is most commonly enjoyed as an infusion, but can also be prepared as a tincture (or glycerite, or syrup, get creative!)The leaf is the part utilized, both fresh and dry. It is best to gather the leaves before the plant sets to flower.
Growth/Habitat: Originating in the Mediterranean region, spearmint has spread via cultivation to nearly every continent. Spearmint is a perennial herb that spreads via runners, or stolons, and will readily take-over where it is planted. Try growing this herb in a pot if you do not have the space to commit to this rapidly spreading mint. Spearmint prefers rich, loamy soil that stays evenly moist. Plant your spearmint in light to partial shade in Florida. Spearmint has a distinct square stem, characteristic of the mint (Lamiaceae) family. The leaves of this plant are opposite & serrated; these leaves come to a point, and are “spear shaped” and imply the plant’s namesake. Spearmint has tiny flowers with 5 united labiate petals, whose color ranges from white to pink to blue. This plant is distinctly recognizable by crushing the leaf and inhaling the sweet spearmint scent.
Recipes: The variety of delicious concoctions you can make with spearmint is seemingly endless. Try adding a few leaves to your morning tea, fruit salad, or smoothie. A simple syrup infused with spearmint is a delight added to cocktails/mocktails, iced tea and anything else you want to sweeten up with some mintiness.
Spearmint Simple Syrup Recipe:
- 1 cup sugar, 1 cup chopped spearmint leaves, 1 cup of water
- Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a simmer and stir until sugar is melted. Turn off heat and let steep for approximately 20 minutes. Strain mint from syrup, bottle, label and store.