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Peppermint – All You Need to Know | Instacart Guide to Fresh Produce
What is peppermint?
Peppermint (Mentha x Piperita or Mentha balsamea wild) is one of 25 distinct varieties of the mint plant. A cross between spearmint and watermint, it may be used in:
- Cookies, cakes, and pies
- Teas and cocoa
- Popcorn, especially during the holiday season
- Candy, like the timeless peppermint sticks
- Oil, which is believed to have medicinal properties
- Cosmetic fragrances like soaps and lotions
- Dental care products, like mouthwash, toothpaste, and even toothpicks
The taste of peppermint is often described as sweet, strong, and pungent. Its aftertaste is cool and refreshing.
Peppermint leaves, like other culinary herbs, are used fresh in cooking. The flowers of the peppermint plant are dried, and that is the form that flavors desserts, beverages, and candies. The oil of the plant is also used as a flavoring and is believed to have healthy properties.
Where did peppermint originate from?
Indigenous to Europe and Asia, peppermint is now cultivated worldwide. But, like many other popular fresh herbs, it has a long and interesting backstory, dating back to ancient times.
The name peppermint comes from the Latin Mintha. That is the Greek name of a nymph who, in mythology, was transformed into a mint plant. Likewise, Piper means pepper because of the herb’s tangy taste.
Historians found an ancient Egyptian medical text from 1550 BC that includes a reference to peppermint. The mint was also mentioned in Greek mythology, by Jesus in the Bible, and by Roman philosophers and monks during the Middle Ages.
Today, in North America, commercial growers of peppermint are mostly in the northern and eastern parts of the United States and the southern parts of Canada. However, the United States produces more than half the world’s peppermint. It is grown in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Indiana, California, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
In one year alone, about 5 million pounds of peppermint oil was produced in the United States.
What are the benefits of eating peppermint?
One often thinks of peppermint as a breath freshener. That is true, but peppermint may also have some additional properties.
Unlike some other herbs and forms of fresh produce, peppermint isn’t packed with nutrients, but it contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals, such as:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin C
When eaten fresh, peppermint can also be a powerful antioxidant.
How is peppermint grown?
Farmers cultivate several different types of peppermint plants. They are Black Mitcham, Murray Mitcham, Todds Mitcham, and Robert’s Mitcham.
Loose soil with ample moisture and irrigation are required to grow healthy plants. The roots of the peppermint plant are shallow and take about 24 hours to settle. The plants are usually grown in spring (April or May), and herbicide must be applied, and the plants thinned to ensure optimal growth.
Mint plants spread quickly, and they form a network of stolons (creeping underground stems) that proliferate just below the soil’s surface. The plants grow up to 2ft high.
The stolons are sometimes spread around in soil in the fall, enabling new peppermint plants to spring up and rapidly mature the following spring.
When is peppermint in season?
Shoppers can find peppermint year-round, fresh in the herb section of the grocery store and in many other forms like peppermint extract for baking, peppermint oils, peppermint-flavored teas and candies, and much more.
Spring is usually the best season to buy fresh peppermint.
How do you pick peppermint at the grocery store?
When shopping for fresh peppermint, be on the lookout for leaves that are consistent in color and perkiness. If you can smell the leaves, the door should be strong and distinct.
For optimal convenience and freshness, have your groceries delivered. Instacart also offers 2-hour pick-up. When you shop for fresh peppermint via Instacart, add it to your cart and then use the “Instructions” option to notify your Instacart shopper about any preferences or specific directions on how to choose the best products. Shop for peppermint.
How to store peppermint
If the peppermint comes with a rubber band holding the leaves together, remove it before storage.
- Place it like a bouquet in a container with the stems in water and a loose plastic bag over the leaves. This method will keep the peppermint fresh for a few days.
- Or, you can surround it with a damp paper towel and store it loosely in a plastic bag or container. It will keep about a week that way.
- Dry it (by skipping the paper towel and water) and store loosely in a bag for about 5 days
- Freeze it by placing the whole, dry leaves in an airtight freezer container or bag, where it will last for about 4 to 6 months. The leaves can also be added to water in ice cube trays and frozen for a delightful addition to beverages.
How to tell if peppermint is bad
As peppermint ages, the leaves begin to wilt. Spoiled peppermint will also often have an off-smell, and the leaves will become discolored.
What can I substitute for peppermint?
Basil belongs to the mint family and is the most common substitute for fresh peppermint in cooking. When staying within the mint family, spearmint and watermint are safe alternatives.
Parsley, marjoram, rosemary, and tarragon are substitutes for fresh peppermint, especially when used in salads and cooking.
Keeping a bottle of peppermint extract in the pantry is a way home chefs can always enjoy a fresh minty taste year-round.
Where can I find peppermint near me?
Many fresh peppermint and peppermint-flavored products are readily available on Instacart for 2-hour delivery or pick-up! No matter which option you choose, you can be assured of convenience, variety, and freshness.
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