The perennial herbaceous plant spearmint has leaves that look like a spear point. Spearmint is also called garden mint, common mint, lamb mint, and mackerel mint. The commercial cultivation and growing of spearmint stem from the many different uses of spearmint which is a popular flavor for food while the oil of spearmint is used to make scents.
Species: M. spicata
Binomial name: Mentha spicata
- Some records made mention of the spearmint as early as the 1st century AD.
- The ingredients of a 14th-century toothpaste include spearmint.
- English botanist John Gerard, in his 1597 book Herbal, recommended the use of spearmint to treat dog bites and bee stings.
- Spearmint is used to flavor toothpaste, confectionary, shampoos, and soaps.
Spearmint Buying Guide
Groceries, supermarkets, farm stands, farmers markets – even the internet – offer a wide variety of spearmint products for sale including freshly-cut leaves, dried and crushed leaves, potted spearmint plants, and spearmint seeds. The main challenge when buying spearmint is knowing for sure if what you are buying is spearmint because other plants almost have the same appearance, like lemon balm and the other types of mint.
The advantage of going to the grocery or supermarket where spearmint leaves are freshly-packaged is that it is labeled. If you are browsing display items in a farm stand, market, or a stall in a farmer’s market, the best way to be sure you are getting spearmint is to ask whoever is selling. If you are reluctant but really need spearmint, buy crushed and bottled spearmint from a brand you trust.
Spearmint Production & Farming in Texas
The best soil to plant spearmint is alkaline soil with a pH ranging from 6.5 to 7.5. Spearmint can grow even in Zone 11, which means it can withstand a hot climate and thrive. While spearmint needs full sun, in Texas where it can get very, very hot, experienced growers advise against keeping spearmint exposed to direct sunlight non-stop and advised instead to allow some time in partial shade.
Part of growing spearmint especially in large quantities is having to deal with pests, and spearmint attracts a lot of pests, most common of which include thrips, cutworms, aphids, flea beetles, loopers, and spider mites. Many broad-spectrum pesticides are effective in killing different types of pests.
- Spider mites – To get rid of spider mites, use neem oil and apply it through foliar spraying. It contains azadirachtin which is effective against spider mites. You can also use horticultural oil (which also targets aphids and thrips). Pests die after exposure to horticultural oil due to suffocation since the oil blocks the spiracles through which insects breathe. Another effect of horticultural oils is disrupting the metabolism of insect eggs. Lastly, horticultural oils disrupt the insect’s ability to feed. As a result, the insect starves to death. Using pyrethrin spray is also an effective method against spider mites. Another option is spinosad, a mixture of two chemicals called spinosyn A and spinosyn D typically used to control a wide variety of pests.
- Thrips – To kill thrips, there is a wide array of options to choose from: horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, anti-parasite spray spinosad, or pyrethrin pesticides with piperonyl butoxide.
- Cutworms – Pesticides such as carbaryl will kill cutworms attacking your spearmint. Pyrethroid insecticides like cyfluthrin and the insecticide permethrin are also useful for this purpose.
- Aphids – Kills aphids destroying your spearmint using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil. You can also use the pesticide malathion, which is the most commonly used organophosphate insecticide in the United States, or rotenone, a selective, non-specific insecticide typically used in home gardens for insect control.
- Flea beetles – The use of man-made pesticide carbaryl is the solution to rid of flea beetles. Other options include pyrethroid insecticides like cyfluthrin and Lambda cyhalothrin, pesticide malathion, pyrethrin spray, permethrin insecticide, and spinosad.
- Loopers – To kill this pest, you can spray your spearmint with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) spray, insecticidal soap spray, or anti-parasite spray spinosad.
Spearmint is a species of Mentha spicata (mint) believed to be native to Europe and in some locations in Asia. Spearmint is naturalized in Africa, North America, and South America. It was the Romans who brought spearmint to England during the 5th century.
The United States is the biggest producer of both spearmint and peppermint. Washington, Oregon, Indiana, Idaho, and Michigan are the top spearmint producing states in the country. Other countries producing spearmint are China, India, and Russia.
Freshly-cut and freshly-packaged spearmint are sold in the market or the produce section of the grocery in a sealed transparent clamshell plastic container. Dried and powdered spearmint come in plastic or glass bottles, or a plastic pack. You’ll find spearmint seeds sold in plastic packaging too.
Spearmint is ubiquitous in many different kinds of food we eat every day, like soups, pasta flavored with spearmint, or chocolate-and-spearmint sweets, and desserts like cakes, ice cream, and cookies.
Spearmint is not just great for eating, but after eating as well. Eating spearmint can help cleanse your palate and help with bad breath too.
Spearmint is also popular in beverages like spearmint tea. In the Greater Maghreb region, there is a popular drink called Maghrebi mint tea or Moroccan mint tea made from green tea, spearmint, and sugar. In the Southern United States, it is common practice to add spearmint to iced tea. Spearmint is also used in making alcoholic cocktails like mojito and mint julep.
Put spearmint inside a plastic bag or wrap it in a paper cloth or towel before putting it inside the refrigerator. Use a freezer bag if you want to freeze it. A third option is filling ice cube trays with water and cut spearmint leaves.
You can dry spearmint too. Use the microwave to flash-dry the leaves (start by heating it for 20 seconds and adjust accordingly depending on how the drying is turning out). Once it is brittle, you can crush it and put it inside an herb bottle or any container with a lid. Store somewhere cool, dry, and away from direct sunlight. If you don’t have a microwave, try using a drying screen and place this in a warm, dry room to allow it to completely dry.
There is a lot of creative ways to use spearmint for cooking. You can pair it with pistachio to make pesto, or make a delicious ceviche using scallop, spearmint, and mango. If you are planning on roasted shrimps, why not make a mint and curry powder rub? If it is grilled steak, then use spearmint to make chimichurri sauce to pair well with grilled steak. Improve the flavor of your garlic ginger chicken with a spearmint and cilantro garnish. Spearmint is also great paired with pomegranate to make the sauce for your curried chicken. If you are making zucchini salad or potato salad, add finely-chopped spearmint for an added flavor. Here’s another idea: mix spearmint with feta cheese and use it as a spread for lamb burgers. For dessert, why not prepare a bowl of mixed berries, lemon zest, and spearmint salad?
Using spearmint in cooking is a good idea because of all the mint species, spearmint is less pungent.
Spearmint is a good source of vitamins (A, C, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, folate, and Vitamin B6), minerals (zinc, phosphorus, calcium, and iron), dietary fiber, protein, antioxidants. It is low on saturated fat as well as cholesterol.
- Calcium: 1488.00mg
- Iron: 87.47mg
- Potassium: 1924mg
- Sodium: 344mg
Spearmint is good for the body. People with fever or those suffering from digestive disorders can seek relief using spearmint as food or drink. There are also studies focused on using spearmint to cure gout. It is also believed that spearmint has antiemetic properties which means it can help people from suffering nausea and avoid succumbing to vomiting. The carvone found in spearmint can help in the inhibition of tumors. This also makes the spearmint antimicrobial.