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Spearmint

An Introduction
Spearmint is characterized as a herbaceous rhizomatous perennial plant. In botanic terms, it is known as the Mentha spicata. This herb is grown in large parts of Europe and Asia, especially in the Mediterranean region. The herb has been traditionally associated with wisdom and it is also referred to as Our Lady's mint, spire mint, and sage of Bethlehem. It was the Romans who brought the spearmint to Britain, who in turn popularized it in the USA where it is raised as a cash crop in various parts of the country. The pointed leaf tips of the spearmint have resulted in its being named as the spearmint. In Hindi, it is called the Pahari Pudina. Both in India and abroad, it enjoys high levels of popularity. The spearmint belongs to the mint family which includes peppermint, ginger mint, large apple mint and other varieties. Many hybrids are existing for the spearmint as the plant interbreeds quite easily.

 
Its height ranges from 30 to 90 cms and the plant is said to grow well in wet soils with semi shade conditions. Its flowers range from a pinkish color to white and its leaves are smooth and in the form of slender spikes. The leaves of the herb possesses a pungent taste and is not cooling in effect as the many other mint varieties. The leaves are oblong or lanced in shape, measuring over two inches in length and of bright greenish color, This unbranched herb grows well in thick undergrowths of high moisture and can reach heights of over three feet. The tubular spearmint flowers grow in clusters nearer to the stem and possess two long and short stamens. Like all mint stems, spearmint has a square stem. The seeds are brown in color, are small and rounded in shape. The presence of the chemical carvone gives the spearmint its distinctive odor and aroma. It is a hardy plant which requires
great tending to prevent them from turning into overgrown weeds. The spearmints are spread through underground runners. The volatile oil, the flavonoid thymonin, caffeic acid derivatives, rosmaric acid, carvone, and limonene are some highly useful and important components of the spearmint.
 

Cultivation
The spearmint grows well in temperate climates and for commercial purposes, it is grown in pots or planters to stop the roots from spreading out and is preferably grown in areas with semi shade, although full sun shine does not hamper the growth of the plant. cool and damp conditions are required for optimum growth. If grown in the sheltered area, the spearmint will grow much faster. Application of rich soil towards the ending of Autumn is done. Loamy soils with rich nutrients and organic materials are preferred for growing the spearmint. It does not thrive in the dry, sandy soils. Ideally, the spearmint plants should be slightly grown apart. As soon as the plant starts to flower, the leaves loose their aroma. Various drying methods are used for the treatment of the leaf. The plant is grown largely for its aromatic and carminative oil. If it is being cultivated for the volatile oil, then its shoots are to be collected in August when it is about to flower and immediately used in the distillery.

 

Uses and Benefits of the Spearmint
The leaves of the plant are used in chutneys, culinary preparations, vinegar, jellies and iced drinks. The spearmint is also used to make various types of beverages. This herb is a a powerful stimulant and also has anti spasmodic properties. The leaf has valuable every day medicinal properties and it is used to make concoctions for combating fevers and bronchitis. It also has valuable and useful antibacterial, anti oxidative and diuretic properties. It is useful in dealing with digestive disorders, colic, irritable bowel syndrome and flatulence and to remove ill effects of poison. High in vitamins A and C, it helps to improve eyesight and is good for healthy hair and radiant skin. The spearmint is an effective home remedy when dealing with minor irritations as motion sickness, hiccups, and nausea.

A sweetened version of the herb is used to counter infantile troubles, vomiting in pregnancy and hysteria. The plant is said to be useful for making various types of medicinal preparations and sauces.

An important by product of the spearmint is the oil derived from the spearmint leaves. The spearmint oil is used for a variety of purposes like the making of chewing gums, toothpastes, confectionery, pharmaceutical preparations and in sweet dishes like puddings and cakes. The spearmint is principally prized by industry for the volatile oil produced through a process of steam distillation. Other uses of spearmint includes laundry products, chewing tobacco, mouth washes, spearmint teas, soaps, toothpastes, and perfumes. Being mild, it is safe for young children and pregnant women but those suffering from hernia and gallstones problems must avoid this herb.

Spearmint Recipes

Spearmint Jelly

  • 2 cups moderately packed spearmint
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 3 oz of liquid pectin

Place two cups of spearmint in two cups of boiling water for thirty minutes and then strain the mixture. Add the quarter cup of lemon juice along with four cups of sugar and then bring to a boil. After that, add around three ounces of liquid pectin to it and place the preparation in jars and seal well.

Spearmint Vinegar
Take a jar and fill it with mint leaves taken from the stalks. Cover the cold vinegar with cover the bottle. Infuse for a fortnight and subsequently, strain the vinegar.

 
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