Watermint is a member of the mint family, one that has been in use since the time of the Ancient Greeks. Some historians believe that watermint is the mint referred to in Greek myth of Menthe, the nymph who was turned into the mint plant by jealous Persephone. They also believe that it is watermint that is used by Philemon and Baucis to scrub tables as mentioned in the writings of Ovid. Both the Greeks and the Romans used members of the mint family as a part of the ritual for preparing dead bodies to be interred. It was used for its aroma, which helped to mask the smell of decay.
The use of watermint or pennyroyal to scent bath water was another practice common to both Ancient Greece and to Ancient Rome.
In the Middle Ages, watermint leaves were scattered on the floors of banquet halls as a kind of air freshener. As guests entered and moved around, the leaves would be trampled and release their fragrance.
Watermint is native to parts of Europe as well as parts of Africa and Asia; however, it is universal in the British Isles. You can find watermint growing in every county in Great Britain and at altitudes up to 1500 feet. It is believed to have reached Britain from Italy via Roman soldiers who used it to perfume their homes.
Watermint was used in Medieval times as a treatment for various conditions, including bad breath and dandruff.
Peppermint is a popular mint variety that is a natural hybrid of watermint and spearmint.
As the herb’s name suggests, watermint thrives in damp earth. As a result, you will typically find it growing near rivers as well as marshes and canals. Watermint is difficult to cultivate and as a result, it is more common to forage it instead.
Watermint flavor profile
Watermint is known for being intensely minty. In fact, it is easily one of the most pungent mints. Its menthol notes are so pronounced that you will need to use it carefully to avoid overpowering other flavors in a dish.
Health benefits of watermint
Like all members of the mint family, watermint is full of important nutrients that include:
- Monoterpenes: Monoterpenes are terpenes found in the essential oil of watermint and which are believed to have important health benefits.
- Vitamins: Like other mints, watermint is a good source of vitamin C when it is served fresh. It also contains vitamin A.
You can use watermint as a preventive measure or as a treatment for health conditions like:
- Anxiety: Watermint has mild sedative effects and is a traditional treatment for nervousness and insomnia.
- Poor digestion: Like other mint varieties, watermint has long been used to alleviate digestive problems.
- Cancer: The ability to fight cancer is one of the important benefits of the monoterpenes in watermint.
The intense menthol flavor of watermint keeps it from being a popular feature for most mint recipes. You will not see watermint showing up in a lot of salads or desserts. It is commonly used as a medicine, and the way that it is administered is typically in the form of tea. The tea can be consumed as a refreshing beverage with or without a sweetener, or use it as a mouthwash. You make watermint tea simply by covering leaves with boiling water and steeping them for as long as it takes for the water to cool to a drinkable temperature.