AskDefine | Define peppermint

Dictionary Definition

peppermint

Noun

1 herb with downy leaves and small purple or white flowers that yields a pungent oil used as a flavoring [syn: Mentha piperita]
2 red gum tree of Tasmania [syn: red gum, peppermint gum, Eucalyptus amygdalina]
3 a candy flavored with peppermint oil [syn: peppermint candy]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Noun

  1. A hybrid herb of the mint family formed by crossing watermint and spearmint. It has a high menthol content and a sharp flavor. Used in cooking, especially in herb teas and confections.
  2. A confection containing extract of peppermint.

Translations

herb
confection

Extensive Definition

This article is about the herb; the tree Agonis flexuosa is also commonly known as peppermint.
Peppermint (Mentha × piperita) is a hybrid mint, a cross between watermint (Mentha aquatica) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). The plant is indigenous in Europe and now widespread in cultivation throughout all regions of the world. It is found wild occasionally with its parent species.

Botany

It was first described by Linnaeus from specimens collected in England; he treated it as a species, but it is now universally agreed to be a hybrid.
It is a herbaceous rhizomatous perennial plant growing to 30–90 cm tall, with smooth stems, square in cross section. The rhizomes are wide-spreading, fleshy, and bare fibrous roots. The leaves are from 4–9 cm long and 1.5–4 cm broad, dark green with reddish veins, and with an acute apex and coarsely toothed margins. The leaves and stems are usually slightly hairy. The flowers are purple, 6–8 mm long, with a four-lobed corolla about 5 mm diameter; they are produced in whorls (verticillasters) around the stem, forming thick, blunt spikes. Flowering is from mid to late summer. The chromosome number is variable, with 2n counts of 66, 72, 84, and 120 recorded.

Ecology

It typically occurs in moist habitats, including streamsides and drainage ditches. It is usually sterile, producing no seeds and reproducing only vegetatively, spreading by its rhizomes.
Similarly, some poorly designed earlier trials found that peppermint oil has the ability to reduce colicky abdominal pain due to IBS with an NNT (number needed to treat) around 3.1, but the oil is an irritant to the stomach in the quantity required and therefore needs wrapping for delayed release in the intestine. Peppermint relaxes the gastro-oesophageal sphincter, thus promoting belching.
Peppermint flowers are large nectar producers and honey bees as well as other nectar harvesting organisms forage them heavily. A mild, pleasant varietal honey can be produced if there is a sufficient area of plants.
Peppermint oil is used by commercial pesticide applicators, in the EcoSmart Technologies line of products, as a natural insecticide.
Outside of its native range, areas where peppermint was formerly grown for oil often have an abundance of feral plants, and it is considered invasive in Australia, the Galápagos Islands, New Zealand, and in the United States.
In the United States, Washington ranks number one in production of Peppermint Oil.

Cultivation

Peppermint generally thrives in shade and expands quickly by underground rhizomes. If you choose to grow peppermint, it is advisable to plant it in a container, otherwise it can rapidly take over a whole garden. It needs a good water supply, and is ideal for planting in part-sun to shade areas.
The leaves and flowering tops are the usable portion of the plant. They are collected as soon as the flowers begin to open and then are carefully dried. The wild form of the plant is less suitable for this purpose, with cultivated plants having been selected for more and better oil content. Seeds sold at stores labelled peppermint generally will not germinate into true peppermint, but into a particularly poor-scented spearmint plant. The true peppermint might rarely produce seeds, but only by fertilisation from a spearmint plant, and contribute only their own spearmint genes.

Cultivars

A number of cultivars have been selected for garden use:
  • Mentha × piperita 'Candymint'. Stems reddish.
  • Mentha × piperita 'Citrata' (Eau De Cologne Mint). Leaves aromatic, hairless.
  • Mentha × piperita 'Crispa'. Leaves wrinkled.
  • Mentha × piperita 'Lime Mint'. Foliage lime-scented.
  • Mentha × piperita 'Variegata'. Leaves mottled green and pale yellow.

References

See also

peppermint in Arabic: نعناع
peppermint in Czech: Máta peprná
peppermint in Danish: Peber-Mynte
peppermint in German: Pfefferminze
peppermint in Spanish: Mentha x piperita
peppermint in Esperanto: Pipromento
peppermint in French: Menthe poivrée
peppermint in Icelandic: Piparminta
peppermint in Latvian: Piparmētra
peppermint in Lithuanian: Pipirmėtė
peppermint in Hungarian: Borsmenta
peppermint in Armenian: Անանուխ
peppermint in Dutch: Pepermunt (plant)
peppermint in Japanese: ペパーミント
peppermint in Narom: Mentha piperita
peppermint in Polish: Mięta pieprzowa
peppermint in Slovak: Mäta pieporná
peppermint in Serbian: Питома нана
peppermint in Swedish: Pepparmynta
peppermint in Turkish: Bahçe nanesi
peppermint in Ukrainian: М'ята перцева
peppermint in Vietnamese: Cây bạc hà
peppermint in Chinese: 胡椒薄荷
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