Post # 209 Peppermint, It’s Not Just For Candy Anymore

January 15, 2014 at 1:05 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 209 Peppermint, It’s Not Just For Candy Anymore

I was tempted to write more about water, but decided I’d done enough of that.  I’ve been wanting to write about peppermint for a while now, so today’s the day.  Anyone who’s read this blog thingy for a while knows that I love my mint plants!  There are so many of them; they each have their own personality; and their care is minimal so it’s easy to be successful with them.  This past year, my perennial peppermint came back in the pot they’ve been in for years.  I grew spearmint, lemon balm, and chocolate mint.  This coming year, I’m going to do the peppermint again, as well as the chocolate mint, but I’m going to branch out and try some different mint.  Maybe wintergreen, and maybe a different variety of lemon mint.

Mints all have the same basic qualities to them, but for me, peppermint is the absolute best.  It’s a very delicate species, a cross between spearmint and watermint.  It’s difficult to maintain peppermint beyond second or third generation unless you keep it away from other mints.  Otherwise, it tends to revert back to its spearmint phase and you lose the peppermint scent.  And that scent is what it’s all about.

peppermint

Peppermint, like all mints, is easily bruised and sends a powerful aroma.  It’s very easy to grow, but it has no seeds, growing only by it rhizomes.  It spreads quickly and will take over a garden.  It loves moisture so it’s difficult to overwater.  And it springs back fast from a thirsty time once water is given to it.  It’s considered invasive so be careful where you plant it, if you decide to plant it.  I keep mine in a pot and always have.

The essential oils from peppermint have been used for tons of stuff.  Everyone knows the red striped peppermint candy at Christmas time.  It’s so popular that now it’s on the shelves all year.  When I was a little boy, the only time you could have it was at the holiday.  It’s used in chewing gum, candy canes, a popular hard candy with a hole in the center, cookies, cakes, cleaning products, shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, and a variety of other products.  I’ve been using peppermint soaps, lotions, toothpaste, and shampoo for years.  Peppermint flowers produce a large amount of nectar, and there’s a variety of honey with a peppermint taste, although I’ve only seen that once.  Peppermint aroma is an eye opener and there’s some research to suggest that it’s a memory enhancer.  It has a cooling effect topically and internally.  Many times, on a hot day, I’ll take three or four leaves and crush them in my hand and rub them on my forehead and neck.  Then I’ll just smell the aroma in my hands for a few moments to get a lift.

Peppermint has been shown to kill some bacteria.  Studies suggest that a few drops of peppermint oil on the tongue is a good way to cure chronic bad breath.  It also tastes good, and give your mouth a huge rush.  Since it’s killing the bacteria in your mouth, it’s freshening your mouth at the same time.  I’ve also put a drop of peppermint oil in a glass of mineral water.  It gives it a very light flavor but also seems to give me an energy boost.  Peppermint oil also helps with digestion and keeping the intestinal tract in good shape.

Peppermint scent is also good for respiratory ailments.  Rub a few drops on your chest when you have a cold and it does wonders.  I’ve floated a half cup of peppermint leaves in a hot bath and soaked to clear my head during a cold.  It works great.  If I don’t have any fresh leaves, I use peppermint tea bags.  Easier to clean, too.  Another thing I do with peppermint is put about a tablespoon in two cups of water and put it in a spray bottle.  Then I spray curtains, bedding, clothes, etc.  It leaves a light fresh scent that is a real pick me up.

Peppermint oil can also be rubbed into sore muscles, just don’t use too much at a time.  No more than a half-teaspoon is plenty sufficient.  The menthol qualities as well as the astringency of the oil will do well.  It’s been shown that the ancients would put peppermint in olive oil to suffice the oils and use that as a body rub.  Peppermint has also been found in the mummification process but I don’t suppose you’d want to do that.

Mostly, though, peppermint is a flavoring for candy.  I started this post talking about holiday candy, but peppermint can be used all year round.  Chocolate and peppermint together are an amazing combination.  York Peppermint Patties, and Junior Mints are two best selling candies that have been around for over a century.  When I was a kid, I used to pour half a box of Junior Mints into my mouth just to get the head rush through my sinuses as all that peppermint invaded my head.  I haven’t done that in years.  I may just try that again soon!

Once in a while, I make my own peppermint candy.  It’s simple, not terribly time consuming, and always impressive.

  • Cream Cheese, 8oz, room temp, in a bowl
  • Powdered Sugar, 4 cups
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • *Optional food coloring

Use a powerful mixer to whip the cream cheese and peppermint together.  Add the powdered sugar about a half cup at a time.  It will produce a stiff dough.  If you want to color the candy, separate it into three to six equal portions.  Leave one white, then add a few drops of different food coloring to each portion and work into the candy.  Play around with the intensity of the colors if you like.  Shape the candy by either pinching small pieces off the dough, and rolling into small balls, then smash with a fork, or by rolling out thin with a rolling pin and cutting small shapes.  Put the finished candies on a baking sheet and let air dry for several hours.  You can roll them in powdered sugar, cocoa, or dip them in melted chocolate.  Store in an airtight container if you think they are going to last longer than a day or two.

I’ve made these several times and for some reason, most people think the blue ones taste better.  Go figure.

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