The New Student's Reference Work/Mint (plant)
Mint, a general name of species of the great family Labiatæ, but specially applied to the species of the genus Mentha, ordinarily recognized by their peculiar fragrance and their clusters of small purple, pink or white flowers. The genus contains about 30 species, all native to north temperate regions, 12 of which either are native or naturalized in North America. Their characteristics are square stems, opposite or whorled leaves, a spicy fragrance or “minty odor” and four-lobed ovary. In little glands in the leaves is secreted a volatile oil, which gives the plant its pungency. Peppermint (M. piperita) is the most important species in cultivation, and is one of the most important of plants in the production of essential oils. The leaves are dark green veined with purple; the stem is often purplish; the flowers are purple. The chief regions of peppermint cultivation in the United States are certain portions of Michigan, Indiana and New York. Spearmint (M. spicata) is also cultivated for its essential oil, but this is not so much in demand as peppermint oil. It is spearmint which is cultivated largely for table use in the making of mint sauce and mint julep. It is frequently cultivated in the vicinity of large cities to supply this demand. The leaves are wrinkled, serrate, short-stemmed or sessile; the small flowers are crowded around the stem in whorls.