Peppermint Leaves: Flavor Profile
Peppermint is one of the most popular mint varieties, revered for its strong, refreshing menthol flavor. In fact, peppermint’s menthol content is 40%. Spearmint, its closest relative, has just .05% menthol content. The herb’s bold, minty taste is a natural complement for sweet dishes, especially chocolate. And it melds perfectly with creamy desserts like ice cream and custard.
Dried peppermint is also a popular choice in tea blends. Although peppermint isn’t as widely used in savory dishes as spearmint, the dried herb adds a fresh mint flavor to many Middle Eastern dishes.
Cooking with Peppermint Leaf
Dried peppermint leaves can be substituted for fresh peppermint in most recipes. The key is to use the right amount. You should use about half the dry amount, if the recipe calls for fresh leaves.
Mint complements many different herbs and spices. It works especially well with citrus zest, especially lemon. Chili peppers, basil and oregano are also great spices to mix with peppermint. In cooking, the dried leaves have many uses:
- Marinades – Mix peppermint with olive oil and your favorite spices for a refreshing marinade. Lemon works well and a mint-lemon marinade helps balance strong-flavored fish species like Ahi tuna.
- Tea Blends – Peppermint leaf adds a strong menthol flavor to teas, and it’s common used to soothe sore throats and to promote digestion.
- Sorbets – A refreshing, minty sorbet or ice cream is a wonderful palette cleanser. Compared to peppermint extract, dried leaves add a more subtle mint flavor, which is great in creamy desserts.
- Chocolate – Peppermint and chocolate are classic bedfellows – think after-dinner chocolates. Just be sure to grind the leaves for a smoother consistency.
- Simple Syrup – Great in mint juleps and other minty cocktails, a peppermint-infused simple syrup makes light, refreshing mixer.
History of Peppermint
Peppermint is a naturally occurring hybrid of water mint and spearmint and was first commercially grown in England in the 1700s. Yet, the herb has been used for thousands of years in folk medicine and cooking.
The name mint comes from the ancient Greeks. According to Greek mythology, the plant was named after the mythical naiad Minthe. Hades, the God of the Underworld, fell in love with Minthe, but when Hades’ wife found out, she turned Minthe into a plant out of spite. Hades tried to undo the spell but could only give the plant a sweet pungent aroma to remind him of her.
The Greeks were one of the first cultures to forage and cultivate mint. It was used in traditional Greek medicine as a stomach soother, as well as an ingredient in bath soaps, and as a mouth freshener. The Egyptians also used the plant, and fossilized peppermint leaves have been found in numerous tombs.
During the 1700s, mint became widely used in Western Europe in folk medicine. Peppermint was used to treat nausea and morning sickness. And it was also at this time that peppermint became used more frequently as a culinary herb.
Peppermint is a shade-loving herb that enjoys moist soils. The plant grows in small bunches, and typically reaches about 12 inches in height. The plant grows jagged-toothed, fuzzy leaves, with reddish stems.
In spring, young shoots are typically cut and replanted, and the herb grows quickly throughout the spring. The leaves of the planted are harvested as soon as the plant begins to bolt. Typically, cultivated peppermint is more flavorful and has a higher oil content compared to wild mint.
There are many different varietals of peppermint. Chocolate mint is widely used in confections, and it has a milder taste, without the bitter notes. Candymint, Cripsa and Lavender Mint are other popular varietals of peppermint.
About Our Peppermint
Morocco produces the most peppermint in the world – about 90% of all the mint produced worldwide each year. Yet, some of the best peppermint comes from the Pacific Northwest. Our peppermint is grown in the fertile Snake River Valley of Idaho, USA. The region’s mountainous climate provides ideal growing conditions for the herb. And the Snake River Valley’s fertile soils and cool temperature consistently produce some of the most flavorful peppermint, with a high menthol content and spicy, bitter flavor.