Herbs and spices of Provence
Synonyms: Mentha viridis: green mint (menthe verte)
Mentha spicata: spearmint (menthe verte)
Mentha piperata: peppermint or Mitcham mint (menthe poivrée)
Mentha pulegium: pennyroyal (menthe pouillot)
There are five species of mint growing wild in France, and many more commercial varieties. The menthol extracted from mint is used for candy, liqueures and sirup, and for various pharmaceutical products.
A variety of the menth poivrée has been grown in the Haute Provence since the 19th century. Commercial production has decreased subtantually over the past 20 years, but it is still grown in Bras d'Asse, Mézel and Le Chaffaut in the Asse valley and Haute Bléone valley (near Barrême).
Spearmint ( Mentha spicata) is grown at Salagon.
Mint needs humid soil and only moderate sunshine. The trick is not to get them to grow, but to restrict the growth. without careful restraint, they will take over your garden. One trick is to put the plants in little pots without drainage holes, and plant the pots; that way the roots can't escape and expand.
The leaves can be dried or frozen, or conserved in oil or vinegar.
The leaves make a good herbal tea, either alone (especially the pepper mint) or mixed with other herbs.
Fresh leaves are good with salads, fresh drinks, grilled meat and meat balls. They're also a nice addition to pastries and chocolate desserts.
Mint is good for combatting mice and fleas. Plant some near the roses, and keep leaves near the food, beds and wardrobes. Throw a few in the doghouse, and even rub the dog with them. (A cat probably won't put up with that.)
Mint tea is widely used for digestion and stomach aches, and it's a stimulant. It's also a calming tonic for the nervous system, and helps fight colds and bronchitis. Use about 20-30 grams per liter.