AskDefine | Define spearmint

Dictionary Definition

spearmint n : common garden herb having clusters of small purplish flowers and yielding an oil used as a flavoring [syn: Mentha spicata]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Noun

  1. An herb of the mint family, commonly used in herb tea, candy and to treat mild stomach ache.

Scientific names

Translations

Mentha spicata

Extensive Definition

Mentha spicata (Spear Mint or Spearmint; syn. K. burkhardtis) is a species of mint native to much of Europe and southwest Asia, though its exact natural range is uncertain due to extensive early cultivation. It grows in wet soils.
It is a herbaceous rhizomatous perennial plant growing 30–100 cm tall, with variably hairless to hairy stems and foliage, and a wide-spreading fleshy underground rhizome. The leaves are 5–9 cm long and 1.5–3 cm broad, with a serrated margin. Spearmint produces flowers in slender spikes, each flower pink or white, 2.5–3 mm long and broad.
Hybrids involving spearmint include Mentha × piperita (Peppermint; hybrid with Mentha aquatica), Mentha × gracilis (Ginger Mint, syn. M. cardiaca; hybrid with Mentha arvensis), and Mentha × villosa (Large Apple Mint, hybrid with Mentha suaveolens).

Cultivation and uses

Spearmint is grown for its aromatic and carminative oil, referred to as oil of spearmint. It grows well in nearly all temperate climates. Gardeners often grow it in pots or planters due to its invasive spreading roots. The plant prefers partial shade, but can flourish in full sun to mostly shade. Spearmint is best suited to loamy soils with plenty of organic material. Spearmint leaves can be used whole, chopped, dried and ground, frozen, preserved in salt, sugar, sugar syrup, alcohol, oil, or dried. The leaves lose their aromatic appeal after the plant flowers. Dry it by cutting just before, or right(at peak)as the flowers open, about 1/2 to 3/4ths the way down the sock (leaving smaller shoots room to grow). There is some dispute as to what drying method works best; some prefer different materials (such as plastic or cloth) and different lighting conditions (such as darkness or sunlight).
The cultivar Mentha spicata 'Nana', the Nana mint of Morocco, possesses a clear, pungent, but mild aroma and is an essential ingredient of Touareg Tea.
Spearmint is an ingredient of mojito, the traditional Cuban cocktail. It is used as a flavoring for toothpaste and confectionery, and is sometimes added to shampoos and soaps. In herbalism, spearmint is steeped as tea for the treatment of stomach ache.
Recent research has shown that spearmint tea may be used as a treatment for mild hirsutism in women. Its anti-androgenic properties reduce the level of free testosterone in the blood, while leaving total testosterone and DHEA unaffected.

Chemistry

A major component of the oil is R-Carvone; pure R-Carvone is sufficient to produce a smell which people identify as a spearmint smell.

References

Gallery

spearmint in Bulgarian: Джоджен
spearmint in Danish: Grøn Mynte
spearmint in German: Grüne Minze
spearmint in Spanish: Mentha spicata
spearmint in French: Mentha spicata
spearmint in Hebrew: נענע
spearmint in Dutch: Mentha spicata
spearmint in Finnish: Viherminttu
spearmint in Swedish: Grönmynta
spearmint in Chinese: 綠薄荷
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