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Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America

A Complete Wild Food Guide

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Mentha_canadensis

American Wild Mint (Mentha canadensis or Mentha arvensis var. canadensis). Known also as Field Mint. (By: Mjhuft. Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)

Season: Spring & Summer

Urban, Rural or Both: Both

There are a few Mints you might find. In rural areas away from settlements, the most common would be the American Wild Mint. In cities where there are gardens, or have been, you might find Peppermint and Spearmint. If you live in the Southern Parts of the Eastern side of USA, the Corsican Mint is fairly common.

Mint leaves can be made into teas, added to meals raw or cooked, or just used for munching on if you find them while out walking. There are other types of mints you could find, but some have toxic oils in them, so until you research further, I'd suggest sticking with the ones I've listed.

Growing mints in your home garden:

For detailed growing instructions, go to my Wild Foods Home Garden website Mints page.


American Wild Mint (Mentha canadensis or Mentha arvensis var. canadensis). Known also as Field Mint. You can often smell this plant even before you see it. This one is good for teas, iced tea, mint jellies, eating fresh, drying and using leaves for teas. Good for stomach upsets and bad breath. The easiest way to recognize this one is the tight groups of flowers in wholes around the stem just above the leaf axils (where the leaf stem meets the four sided plant stem). The color of the flowers ranges from white-mauve to purple to purple-blue.


Description:

American Wild Mint (Mentha canadensis) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


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Drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 3: 152)


Peppermint (Mentha × piperita or Mentha balsamea). This very common hybrid is found in most areas of Eastern North America having escaped cultivation. Wherever there has been human settlement, this is sure to be found somewhere. A very tasty mint for tea and eating fresh. The Spearmint has green stems, this one has dark red stems. The Spearmint has long, thin flower clusters, this one has spherical flower clusters except the very top flower which are cone shaped. The Spearmint has leaves that are lighter green than this one.


Description:

Peppermint (Mentha × piperita or Mentha balsamea) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


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Peppermint leaves up close. Note how they are reddish-green compared to the yellowish-green of the Spearmint. (Aleksa Lukic CC BY-SA 3.0)


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Peppermint with flowers. (Sten Porse CC BY-SA 3.0))


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Flowers at top of plant. (By: Dinnye CC BY-SA 3.0)


Peppermint color drawing

Peppermint color drawing. (By: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen)


Spearmint or Spear Mint (Mentha spicata). A very nice leaf for making teas, eating fresh or adding to baked goods. A great find when out walking on a hot summer day as the taste is cooling and seems to cut thirst. It also is helpful as a tea for stomach upset. This one has thin, long pink to white flower clusters on the top of the stems while the Peppermint has spherical flower clusters except for the ones at the very top which are conical. Stems are green with this one, while the stems of the Peppermint are red. Peppermint leaves are darker green than this one.


Description:

Spearmint or Spear Mint (Mentha spicata) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


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Spearmint. Note the yellowish-green of the leaves compared to the reddish-green of Peppermint leaves. (By: Simon Eugster CC BY-SA 3.0)


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Spearmint flowers. Note how long, thin and spaced apart they are compared to the Peppermint.


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Spearmint for sale at market. Note how green they are compared to Peppermint. (By: Jonathunder CC BY-SA 3.0)


Corsican Mint (Mentha requienii). This is a very low growing mint that grows in the South East USA. It is the mint used in Crème de menthe. As a big treat after meals every once in a while in the 1970's, we would have some poured on vanilla ice cream. I also used to love taking sips of it when I was young and the adults weren't looking. I have never used the leaves directly, so cannot comment on using the plant.


Description:


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Corsican Mint. (By: David Eickhoff Attribution 2.0 Generic)




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Important Notes when Identifying
Some Cautions
Dangerous Plants to Avoid Touching
Disclaimer


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