Mints are the plants
that are botanically classified together within the genus Mentha. Many of them have
culinary and medicinal qualities, to varying degrees. The spearmint taste in
toothpaste, mint sauce or chewing gum, and peppermint taste of indigestion tablets or
after dinner mints, are common place these days. But there are many other
variations in scent and taste, some quite interesting, although
unlikely to be preferred by most people to those already well known forms. Some differences are quite
subtle, and may only be of interest to the real enthusiast. A few smell, to be
honest, revolting - I haven't got around to tasted these myself. To the gardener, and especially the herb gardener, the
different leaf & flower shapes & colour may lead to further
the fear of their garden being over-whelmed by mint can be overcome.
Mints are related to
sages, rosmaries, marjorams basils and thymes, all belonging to the botanical classified
family, Lamiaceae (previously known as Labiatae). You will occasionally see all
classified within the Lamiaceae
family described as "mints"
or in the mint
family, especially in American
sources - this is confusing and unnecessary. To the ordinary gardener
the difference in the Botanical terms
may not be appreciated or
even known. "The mint family" to me is implying something which is
not really true, whereas "the mint genus" really means the group of
plants that are really all mints.
To me saying that a
rosemary is a mint is actually missing the point of classification rules, but I think it is likely to
continue to be done, so always check, if you can, for the genus name Mentha to find
the "proper" mints.
You will sometimes see the
word mint used as part of a common or descriptive name, but this does not necessarily
they are mints. Korean mint is Korean mint, Vietnamese
mint is Vietnamese mint, mint bush is mint bush, but none of them are mints. Their names are used to draw attention to their similarity to mint in
scent, not to their similarity in taxonomy, botanical classification of giving
a name in common to plants similar in flower structure, and in some genera
other structural aspects. If you are new to mints you
will just have to try and find the botanical name on the list of label to see
if the word "Mentha" is there. Moroccan mint would be down as Mentha
spicata 'Moroccan', so is a mint. Emperor's mint should be down as Micromeria
sp., so is not a mint, it just smells a bit like one.
To find out about the
name of your mint plant go to the names page.