Botanical name: Mentha spicata L.
Common name: Spearmint
Synonyms: Mentha viridis L., mint, common garden mint, green mint, lady's mint, mackerel mint, hoja de hierbabuena (Spanish)
Botanical Description: A hybrid of Mentha sueveolens (Apple Mint) x Mentha longifolia (Horse Mint).
Native to the Balkan Peninsula and northern and western Turkey (it is often noted that the exact natural range is uncertain due to extensive early cultivation). Also found as an introduced or naturalized plant through most of Europe and the Mediterranean area as well as in North America. Cultivated throughout the temperate region. Spearmint is an herbaceous rhizomatous (forms lateral stems on top of the ground that “creep” to form subsequent plants) perennial plant 30-100 cm tall. It features bright green, sharply pointed, toothed, lance-shaped leaves and flowers in slender, terminal spikes, pink or white, from June-August. The plant should be harvested just before or right as flowers open, as the aromatic components diminish once flowering has ceased.
Commercial product is entirely cultivated from vegetative cuttings due to the high degree of inconsistency in plants grown from seed. Mentha species readily hybridize thus causing offspring that aren’t true to the parent. The commercial product is always rich in carvone and related compounds. Essential oil content ranges from 0.8%-2.5% with the quantity and composition varying considerably according to its origin.
Constituents of Significance: 50% carvone. Menthol should be absent; its presence is indicative of adulteration with other Mentha species, M. x piperita in particular.
Quality: Look for adulteration with peppermint. As noted above, a consistent, cultivated origin is paramount to maintaining a consistent product.
Regulatory Status: GRAS
Did you know: The name ‘spear’ mint derives from the pointed leaf tips.
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