Ginger Mint: The Spicy Hybrid Mint

Ginger mint is a mint varietal that is grown in Europe and Asia. It goes by several names including Scotch mint and Vietnamese mint. Its Latin name is Mentha x gracilis. It is a hybrid between spearmint (Mentha spicata) and corn mint (Mentha arvensis). It does not grow in the wild.

The species to which ginger mint belongs has been used since the time of the Ancient Egyptians and is mentioned in the Bible. The Roman poet Ovid wrote about mint and it was a popular flavoring for sauces in Ancient Rome. The Romans would finish off their meals with a mint sprig to freshen breath and enhance digestion. Ancient Ayurvedic texts list mint as a stimulant for the appetite. In Europe, mint continued to be a beloved herb in the Medieval era with mint sauce being a favorite condiment that was said to enhance appetite. During this time, it was also used for treating illnesses of the stomach.

Spearmint has a much longer history than ginger mint and is thought to have arrived in the US from Europe with the first pilgrims. According to some accounts, Native Americans used mint as a treatment for toothaches, fevers and intestinal ailments.

Ginger mint is believed to be a relative newcomer to America having been brought to Wisconsin in the late 1960s. Today, Wisconsin is one of the main producers of mint in the US. It is one of the eight US states where the herb is cultivated on a commercial scale.

Ginger mint flavor profile

Ginger mint offers the familiar flavor of mint along with a hint of ginger. It is primarily sweet with the familiar cooling effect of mint but with a mildly spicy note on the back end.

Ginger mint health benefits

Like other mints, ginger mints has numerous medicinal benefits. It contains beneficial compounds like:

  • Minerals: Fresh and dried mint — including ginger mint — are good sources of various minerals including iron and manganese.
  • Vitamins: Fresh mint is a rich source of various vitamins when it is used raw. It contains several B vitamins as well as vitamin C but it is especially rich in vitamin A.
  • Antioxidants: Ginger mint is a good source of antioxidants, including some of the vitamins like A and C that are mentioned above. It also contains compounds like alpha-pinene and limonene.

Its medicinal properties make ginger mint useful for treating or preventing ailments like:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): The essential oil from mints like ginger mint provides relief from IBS symptoms.
  • Poor digestion: Mint may help to increase bile production, which helps to speed up digestion.

Note that ginger mint is not recommended for pregnant women as it could cause them to miscarry.

Common uses

You can use ginger mint in the dishes that require the more common mint varieties. Use it to make jams, jellies and sauces. It is a great tea herb and its ginger notes make it a particularly good accompaniment for raw fruit and vegetables. Add it to fruit or vegetable salads or use it to give a fresh, herbaceous flavor to tomatoes. Its flavor can complement proteins as well and it is often used in fish dishes. Vietnamese cooks use it as a seasoning for pho, the beef noodle soup. Ginger mint’s essential oil is used as a flavoring for chewing gum and it is one of the three mint oils that are used to flavor toothpaste.

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