Eau de Cologne Mint Herb: Health Benefits, Uses, Facts

IT: Menta acqua di colonia (menta arancio, m. lavanda, m. bergamotto)

BOT: Mentha citrata ILL: Plate 15, No. 1 eau de cologne mint (Orange Mint, Lavender Mint, Bergamot Mint). This is yet another species of mint commonly grown in gardens. It has a fragrant odour something like orange flower, though it strikes people differently. It is used sometimes in drinks.

To select the best mint for the garden, one must be guided by trial and the local herb farm. As mints vary widely in their quality, we must look for one or more types suitable for our soil and locality. The mints with the finest flavour are not the commonly grown spearmints but the large woolly-leaved apple mints. Bowles mint is particularly famous. The woolly texture disappears on chopping.

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Mints are perennial, but their foliage dies down in winter. They prefer partial shade and plenty of moisture. Pieces of root are planted out in early spring, usually about two inches apart and about two inches deep. In autumn, when the plant begins to fade, it is best to cut the foliage away and mulch with rotted manure. Mints are often attacked by rust, and this applies particularly to the better culinary types of spearmint. The best solution for the cook is to burn the affected plants and start again with healthy cuttings or roots in another part of the garden.

Mint can be forced in glass houses during the winter, and such forced mint is occasionally found in shops. Mint can be dried (quickly in a cool oven), or dried mint can be bought, but the flavour is inferior. It is also suitable for quick freezing. If concentrated rather salty mint sauce is made and bottled, it will keep almost indefinitely in cool conditions.

Mint has been used as a flavouring since antiquity. Both spearmint and mint sauce were introduced to Britain by the Romans. English cooking uses mint as its main summer herb flavouring – with new potatoes and green peas, as well as in mint sauce for lamb or mutton. So closely do the latter go together in England that their union has almost the authority of the law of the Medes and Persians. In fact, though mint sauce is said to be despised by Frenchmen (who in my experience have rarely tasted it), it is excellent with fat lamb, but less suitable with the lean joints popular at present. In recent years mint jelly has become popular and some cooks use mint butter.

In France, mint is not greatly used, and few if any of the great classical dishes call for it; but in Spain and Italy it is common enough, though there are so many other herbs to choose from, and mint does not combine well with garlic.

In all the countries of the Levant and Middle East, mint is again a common flavouring, as it also is in India. Mint, for instance, is ground with coconut, and forms the basis of chutneys which will also contain onion, green chilli, green mango and other substances.

On the whole, mint does not blend in easily with other herbs although it is combined with them in a few fish stuffings. It goes well with duck and with orange or with the two together; with mutton, but rarely with other meats; with vegetables, such as potatoes, peas, beans, lentils, cucumber, tomatoes, aubergines, carrots and mushrooms, it can be excellent. It goes with many fruits – apples and gooseberries for instance – and into fruit salads and fruit drinks, cups and mint julep. It is also very commonly used to flavour tea, ranging from refreshing iced tea to the hot sweet milky mint-flavoured tea as brewed in India.

Mint is above all a refreshing summer herb, and those people who like it should refer to Elizabeth David’s Summer Cooking, which contains an unusual number of recipes and ideas for using it.

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