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Curly mint is available year-round.
Curly mint is a variety of spearmint, botanically known as Mentha spicata 'crispa'. The scientific name for this plant was derived from the spear-like shape of the leaves. Curly mint is distinguished by its height in comparison to typical mint varieties. Curly mint is fragrant and is best suited to being planted in a container.
Curly mint is a tall variety with thick upright stalks and tightly clustered, fluted leaves. The bright green leaves are pointed with curled edges. Curly mint has a fragrant spearmint aroma and a sweet flavor. Curly mint does not have as strong a flavor as peppermint. As with most varieties of mint, it is recommended that it be used when fresh.
Curly mint, like all spearmints, is high in vitamin A, with 1/4 cup providing nearly 35% of the daily value for both men and women. The spearmint variety also contains nominal amounts of vitamin C and B-complex. Curly mint is also high in iron and manganese. Spearmint can be used medicinally just as peppermint can be, as they have very similar components and benefits. Curly mint can be steeped in hot water for tea or the oils can be extracted from the leaves to use as a remedy for headaches, heartburn and indigestion.
Curly mint is often used for fresh mint tea or as a garnish for beverages and desserts. The tall herb with its frilly leaves and strong stalk makes a nice swizzle stick for mojitos or other drinks. Curly mint has a number of culinary uses, from marinades and rubs to jams and flavored whipped cream. The spearmint variety pairs well with meat and fish as well as vegetables like peas. Curly mint is often used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Fresh Curly mint can be frozen in ice cube trays for preservation or to add a hint of flavor to water. The herb can be dried and sealed in an airtight container for later use, though mint doesn’t store particularly well.
When mint is called for in many different cuisines around the world, it is often spearmint that is utilized. Mint is a secret ingredient in the Mexican albondigas (meatball) soup. In Jordan, in the Middle East, mint is added to a salad of tomato and cucumber with parsley, garlic, lemon juice and oil. In India, Mint is added to chutneys and served with naan or curries.
Spearmint is native to Europe. It was introduced to the United States along with peppermint by way of the colonists who brought them to use both medicinally and for cooking. It grows well in most temperate climates, and like its peppermint cousin grows rather well, spreading itself out over any nearby plants. Curly mint is best grown in a container or pot. Curly mint leaves are where the plant concentrates its essential oils, which contain menthol and flavonoids. Though these oils appeal to humans, they can be used as a repellent for insects.
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