The culinary garden: ‘Hierbabuena’ or spear mint


A natural hybrid from two wild species, spearmint (hieberbuena) grows naturally in the European highlands and can be planted in temperate gardens around the world. Its botanical name is menthe spicata. This perennial herb can grow up to 60cm in height with light green, serrated leaves about 4cm wide and10cm long. The whole plant, especially the leaves give off a delicious aroma of chlorophyll (toothpaste, gum, etc.).

Spearmint is the most popular of all mints, particularly in Spain, North Africa, Britain, and China, where it used in cold or alcoholic drinks and hot drinks (Moroccan tea). In the kitchen, it is used in many dishes both hot (chick pea stew, boiled potatoes, with roasted lamb, sauces) and cold (gaspacho, tabbouleh), desserts (fruit salad, jelly), and various liqueurs (Chartreuse, Peppermint).

Spearmint requires fresh soil, well fertilized and preferably sunny. It won’t live for many years in pots because it needs a lot of space to develop its rhizomes. In the garden, it is best planted in a corner where it will not dominate other plants.

Some of its main medicinal properties include helping with digestion, flatulence, spasms, carminative, antispasm, colic, blood pressure, and can act as an expectorant, antiseptic, analgesic and antifungal. It can be used to help treat gallstones, headaches and toothaches. It is one of the plants recommended for the digestive system: make an infusion using 10 – 20g of leaves per litre of water, and take 3 – 5 cups a day.
There is a Moroccan variety with more rounded leaves that are not serrated and are a dark green color.

François-Luc Gauthier, botanist-gardener ecologist.

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