As its name suggests, peppermint is a strongly aromatic perennial herb of the mint family. The plant is a naturally occurring hybrid of the watermint and spearmint plants. It’s thought to have originated in Europe and the Middle East, but over the years, its popularity has led to it being cultivated in Europe, Asia, and North America.
As with other mints, the plants can spread aggressively by means of stolons, or underground stems. This has led to the spread of wild peppermint plants, in addition to those which have been intentionally cultivated. The natural hybridization among wild species has created many varieties of peppermint, but only two varieties, black and white, are recognized by growers.
Black peppermint, also known as English peppermint or Mitcham mint, is widely grown in the United States. One of its distinctive characteristics is its purplish stems. The white variety is less productive and hardy, but its oil is considered more delicate in odor. For this reason, it tends to fetch a higher price.
A Valuable Commodity
Varieties of mint, including peppermint, have been valued as a commodity for centuries. One especially important usage many civilizations have had for mint is as a remedy for various ailments. In traditional medicine, peppermint has been used as an aromatic, antispasmodic, and antiseptic in treating indigestion, nausea, sore throat, and colds, among other ailments.
The ancient Greeks even used various types of mint as a cure for a common — and annoying — problem. They believed that it could stop a case of hiccups. Since hiccups are caused by involuntary contractions of the diaphragm, this makes peppermint the ideal candidate for a cure, given its reputation as an antispasmodic.
One of the earliest records of its use as a remedy comes from the Ebers Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medical text dating to 1550 BC. In this document, mint is listed as a cure for calming stomach pains. Mint was so highly valued in ancient Egypt, it was sometimes used as a form of currency. While it may seem difficult to comprehend given today’s forms of currency and exchange rates, using food and beverage as a form of payment was relatively common in the past.
While peppermint is still used in numerous ways to this day, one of the most common ways we encounter it is in the form of hard candy. This is especially prevalent during the holiday season with the influx of candy canes. According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90% of them are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Another popular seasonal treat is the peppermint latte. In fact, December 3rd is even recognized as National Peppermint Latte Day. Many coffee shops and restaurants offer their own iteration of this beverage, but perhaps the most well-known version is the Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks.
This drink made its debut on the Starbucks menu in 2002, and it has gone on to become their best-selling holiday drink of all time. However, the title of best-selling seasonal beverage still belongs to the famous Pumpkin Spice Latte. If you’re planning to pick up a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha, you may want to consider it your dessert for the day. A 16 oz serving contains 440 calories and 54 grams of sugar.
Cinnamon Toast Crunch
Melodramatic (“I am one of those / melodramatic fools”)
Southern Methodist University