Monday, February 9, 2009
Spearmint (Mentha Spicata)
Mentha spicata (Spear Mint or Spearmint) is a species of mint native to much of Europe and southwest Asia, though its exact natural range is uncertain due to extensive early cultivation. It grows in wet soils. It is a herbaceous rhizomatous perennial plant growing 30–100 cm tall, with variably hairless to hairy stems and foliage, and a wide-spreading fleshy underground rhizome. The leaves are 5–9 cm long and 1.5–3 cm broad, with a serrated margin. Spearmint produces flowers in slender spikes, each flower pink or white, 2.5–3 mm long and broad. The flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies.
How to grow
It grows well in nearly all temperate climates. Gardeners often grow it in pots or planters due to its invasive spreading roots. The plant prefers partial shade, but can flourish in full sun to mostly shade. Spearmint is best suited to loamy soils with plenty of organic material. Sow the seed into the moist soil, cover with 1/4 inch of soil, use a rich, well-drained, acidic to neutral soil. Temperature required is 21 to 24 degrees Celsius (70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit). The germination time is 10-14 days.
Spearmint makes an excellent garnish with desserts. Spearmint is grown for its aromatic and carminative oil, referred to as oil of spearmint. It is used as a flavoring for toothpaste and confectionery, and is sometimes added to shampoos and soaps. In herbalism, spearmint is steeped as tea for the treatment of stomach ache.