Mentha spicata | ‘English Mint’, ‘Green Mint’, ‘Spearmint’ | ~500 seeds
Mentha spicata – ‘Spearmint’ – is a popular perennial species of the Lamiaceae (along with the Salvias) which is native to Asia and Europe. Widely used for its wonderfully aromatic leaves, the plant is also commonly known by the names ‘Common Mint’, ‘English Mint’, ‘Garden Mint’, ‘Green Mint’, ‘Lamb Mint’ and ‘Mackerel Mint’, as well as by the synonym Mentha viridis. There are currently two known subspecies; Mentha spicata subsp. condensata (native to the Mediterranean and naturalised in New Zealand) and Mentha spicata subsp. spicata (found throughout much of the species’ range).
An herbaceous species which can grow up to one metre or so in height, Mentha spicata produces hairless to hairy foliage and stems. Its strongly-veined, pointed and serrated leaves – growing from the distinctive square-in-cross-section stems – average five to nine centimetres in length by one-and-a-half to three centimetres across. Incidentally, the most common name for the species, ‘Spearmint’, derives from these vaguely spear-shaped leaves. Attractive, fragrant flowers are only a few millimetres long and bloom (in shades of white-lavender-pink) anywhere from mid-summer to early autumn.
Apart from the plant’s leaves being used for flavouring items such as hot and cold beverages, confectionary and toothpaste, it’s also a popular ingredient of many commercially-available toiletries; for example, providing its scent to shampoos and soaps. Moreover, Mentha spicata is prized for its aromatic essential oil, ‘Oil of Spearmint’. Besides the source of the plant’s great scent (R-(–)-carvone – the most abundant component), this oil contains sizeable amounts of other useful chemicals, including limonene (used in the manufacture of certain cleaning products). ‘Oil of Spearmint’ is also sometimes used as an effective insecticide against moths. Consequent to the chemicals produced by the plant, coming into contact with its foliage may cause a skin irritation or other allergic reaction.
Mentha spicata grows well from seed in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-11. We suggest you sow seed into plant pots or other suitable containers, as the species possesses rather invasive and quickly-spreading rhizomes. Use an acidic to neutral, loamy soil, mixed generously with organic matter and watered regularly in average amounts. Situate the containers somewhere in partial shade (preferable) to full sun. Once mature, you can further propagate ‘Spearmint’ via rhizome division or cutting.
An essential (and tasty!) tool in any culinary arsenal – and so a great addition to any well-stocked herb or kitchen garden – why not grow your own ‘Spearmint’ plants from seed?
All the seed sold by Arkham’s Botanical was freshly and ethically sourced in 2018