[Sca-cooks] mint water

Jadwiga Zajaczkowa / Jenne Heise jenne at fiedlerfamily.net
Mon Jun 4 07:32:56 PDT 2007

> Since mint derives from Old German probably from the Latin, menta, I would 
> say that mint was definitely known in Europe in the Middle Ages.  There are 
> references to mint in Cato, Pliny and Martial.  It is also very likely that 
> the Legions brought mint to England.  Because of the relative strength of 
> flavor, peppermint would probably be used in medicines, while spearmint 
> would likely be used as a flavoring agent in salads, vegetable dishes and on 
> meats.

I'd need to check out C. Anne Wilson's text, but I think mint probably
already existed in England before the Legions came-- most of the plants
we think of as being brought to England by the Legions are annuals
and/or not cold hardy and so require specific cultivation. Certainly,
there was plenty of traffic to England before the Legions from
mint-growing areas. Unfortunately, mint usually spreads by runners,
rather than seed, thus leaving less of a trace in the archaeobotanical
record, though the pollen may have been preserved and so there may be
some studies that tell us whether it can be documented in England to
pre-Latin times. Both spear- and peppermint are relatively modern
cultivars, though similar mints would have been available.

Gernot Katzer says this about the origins of peppermint:
"Peppermint is a (usual sterile) hybrid from water mint (M. aquatica) 
and spearmint (M. spicata). It is found sometimes wild in Central and 
Southern Europe, but was probably first put to human use in England, 
whence its cultivation spread to the European continent and Africa; 
today, Northern Africa is a main cultivation area.

Other mint species are indigenous to Europe and Asia, and some are used 
since millennia. Cultivars in tropical Asia always derive from field 
mint and are, therefore, botanically not closely related to European 
peppermint, although they come close to peppermint in their culinary 
value. Mints from Western and Central Asia, however, are comparable not 
to peppermint but to horsemint and applemint."

-- Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, Knowledge Pika jenne at fiedlerfamily.net 
"I thought you might need rescuing . . . We have a bunch of professors 
wandering around who need students." -- Dan Guernsey

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