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Peppermint (Mentha piperita) belongs to the genus Peppermint from the Lamiaceae or Lipocyae family. Its natural habitat is gardens and industrial plantations for the cultivation of essential oil crops. This is an artificially bred species obtained from crossing the Aquatic Mint with the Spikelet.
The culture was isolated in southern England in 1696. In 1921, it was first included in the British Pharmacopoeia - a collection of documents regulating the requirements for medicinal raw materials.
Peppermint has flowers at the top of the shoots.
Botanical Description of Peppermint
Peppermint is a perennial rhizome culture with a herbaceous aerial part dying off for the winter. Erect tetrahedral stems are hollow, branching from the base, densely covered with foliage. The height of peppermint depends on the cultivation and care, climatic conditions, the texture and fertility of the soil, the variety. It ranges from 30 cm to 1 m.
The leaves are paired, located opposite, have the shape of an elongated ovoid (egg), a sharp tip and a serrated edge. The lower part of the plate is always noticeably lighter than the upper one; the petioles are short. Stems and leaves are usually bare, but may be covered with few hairs.
Flowers are small, two-lipped, located at the ends of the shoots. They are collected in half-whorls, forming an intermittent ear. The color depends on the variety, soil composition and illumination, it varies from mauve to purple.
As with the rest of the hybrids, the flowers are mostly sterile. Therefore, growing peppermint from seeds is rarely successful. Despite this, the culture is an excellent honey plant.
Flowering usually begins in June and lasts until August. In the southern regions and in Ukraine, cutting off the upper part of the mint at the beginning of the opening of the buds can provoke a second wave of vegetation. This is exactly what they do on industrial plantations to get 2 crops.
Important! In temperate and cool climates, mint should not be allowed to bloom again. The culture will not have time to get stronger before winter, in the spring it will be greatly weakened or even perish.
The rhizome is horizontal, woody, white, with a large number of thin fibrous appendages, located at a depth of 8 cm. On excessively wet or dense soils, it comes to the surface.
You can clearly see what peppermint looks like in the photo.
Peppermint flavor and classification
Peppermint owes its strong cooling aroma to the high, much higher content of essential oils and menthol than other species. The main amount of volatile substances is concentrated in flowers and leaves. There are so few of them in the stems that they have no medicinal properties and are useless in cooking.
There are two varieties of peppermint:
- White, with delicate light green leaves and shoots, delicate aroma. It is often called French and is used in cooking and perfumery.
The variety is distinguished by a pale green hue and delicate aroma.
- Black mint is distinguished by its dark green leaves and anthocyanin streaks and shoots. Its aroma is harsher and harsher, and the content of menthol, essential oils is much higher than in white. It is she who serves as a raw material for pharmaceutical production.
Black peppermint is easily recognizable by the veins on the leaves.
When creating new varieties of peppermint of industrial importance, breeders work in two directions:
- Removal of cultivars that contain the maximum amount of menthol. They are planted freely, since most of the substance is concentrated in the lower leaves. And they tend to fall off when shaded.
- Creation of varieties with a high content of aromatic oils, carotene, other vitamins, organic acids. They are used more in the culinary and perfume industries. But they also go for medicines - the beneficial properties of mint, recognized by official medicine, are not limited to menthol.
Where does peppermint grow
Peppermint is planted wherever there is fertile soil, the possibility of irrigation, and enough heat - from Africa and Australia to the Baltic States and the Far East. More than 30 countries grow it as an industrial culture, including Russia (Stavropol Territory).
The demand for dried and fresh peppermint is constantly growing, raw materials are purchased at high prices. Cultivation of crops has become a profitable agribusiness in regions with a warm climate.
The meaning of peppermint
Peppermint bred at the end of the 17th century, the content of essential oils in the leaves did not exceed 2-3%. In modern varieties, the volatile aromatic substance is much higher - 5% or more. It is they that are grown on an industrial scale, menthol and other components are isolated, dozens of names of drugs are manufactured, including Validol, Menovazin, Pectusin.
In addition to the pharmaceutical industry, peppermint is indispensable in the manufacture of hygiene products - toothpastes, soaps, shampoos, lotions. The culture is widely used for the production of perfumery products.
Peppermint has taken one of the leading places among the spices of many national cuisines, including the Mediterranean and Moroccan. Aromatherapists, traditional healers, psychics who use herbs in their practice cannot do without it.
A Mojito Cocktail Can't Be Made Without Peppermint
How peppermint reproduces
The culture is a hybrid and reproduces vegetatively. When growing peppermint at home or in the country, planting material is:
- fresh rhizomes dug out before the germination of the crop in spring;
- bushes, divided into parts during transplantation;
- mint in containers or with an open root, bought in the nursery or on the market;
- seedlings - shoots that have just emerged from the ground with 2-3 pairs of leaves about 5 cm high;
- rooted green cuttings;
The last two methods are unproductive - the culture grows quickly in favorable conditions, literally in a year, planting material can be shared with neighbors and friends. They are used in such cases:
- in the snowless cold winter, the plants froze out, a few bushes remained;
- there is no way to get planting material, but a bunch of peppermint with strong fresh shoots was bought in the market or in the supermarket (reproduction is not always possible, but it's worth a try);
- if they want to practice breeding more valuable crops, or to get children interested in gardening.
On industrial plantations, peppermint is planted in two ways:
- mechanized - with fresh rhizomes;
- manual - seedlings.
Features of growing peppermint from seeds
Peppermint is a hybrid. The culture blooms well, but produces very few seeds, and most of them are sterile. They are of interest only to breeders when developing new varieties.
Where the seeds, which are sold in every garden center and shop, come from in such quantities is unknown. You can plant them, but, at best, some other mint will grow. It is possible that it will have bare stems and narrow leaves, differ from the varieties growing nearby by an increased menthol content or simply a strong smell. For peppermint, they often give out water, field, spike mint. Or maybe nothing grows at all.
How to plant peppermint
Peppermint is easy to plant, and the crop takes root and grows quickly. When only a few bushes are needed on the site, they have to be restrained the next year. If development is inhibited, it is necessary to look for the cause.
In the Central lane and in the North-West, peppermint is planted in April-May or August. In the south, the best time is early autumn.
Container specimens in temperate climates can be transferred to a garden bed or flower bed throughout the growing season. In the south, in the summer, this is interfered with by the heat - the culture will need to be shaded for the first 3 weeks, or the planting will need to be postponed to autumn.
Important! The survival time of mint in a new place is about 20 days.
Peppermint can grow in a container until the end of the season
Site selection and soil preparation
Mint grows on almost any soil. Their acidity can range from 5 to 8, ideally 6-7. But the mechanical composition is of great importance. On sandy loams, the culture constantly lacks moisture, the rhizomes fail, in the spring the shoots appear later.
Dense soils are an even bigger problem. Mint rhizomes cannot develop normally, they are literally squeezed out to the surface, where they quickly dry out, and the culture dies.
Ideal site for planting mint:
- with a close standing groundwater;
- protected from strong winds in summer and covered with a thick layer of snow in winter;
- sunny in temperate or cool climates, in the south - light partial shade;
- with loose, organic-rich neutral or slightly acidic soil.
Important! Mint can be grown in flooded areas if the water is there only in the spring. Locking the soil for the entire growing season is contraindicated, at the very beginning of the season it is encouraged.
The best precursors of mint are cereals, legumes, corn, vegetables. In one place, the culture can grow up to 7 years. But this is advisable only when the purpose of the mint is purely decorative. To obtain high-quality medicinal and culinary raw materials, the culture is transplanted every 3 years.
Dig the garden bed at least 2-3 weeks on the bayonet of the shovel, break all the clods. The roots of weeds are chosen, if necessary, peat, sand, humus, starting fertilizers are added. If it was not possible to loosen the site in advance, it is rolled up or compacted in another way - with the help of a board, rammer or abundant watering.
The most common mistake when planting mint
This culture is easy to plant, transfer from place to place, propagate vegetatively. Failures are usually associated with ignorance or negligence of the gardeners. For mint to take root well, the rhizomes must contain 70-80% moisture. Immediately after digging, the water begins to evaporate. Already at 60% moisture, the germination capacity of the culture drops sharply.
To avoid this, it is enough to hold the mint bought with an open root on the market in water for several hours.
Important! Even 10-15 minutes outdoors in the heat can reduce the survival rate of the crop.
Immediately after digging the mint, it is recommended to immerse its root in water and keep it there until disembarking. You should get one plant at a time.
When mint is planted in furrows, it is watered abundantly beforehand. Or rather, they are filled with water. The planting of the culture is carried out practically in the mud. The root is partially immersed in wet soil, and does not have time to dry out.
Planting peppermint outdoors
The plot is prepared and compacted. The mint roots are saturated with liquid and immersed in water. You can start landing:
- A wide furrow is made with a depth of about 10 cm.
- Pour it with water.
- Allow liquid to be absorbed.
- Lay out rhizomes or mint seedlings in a line.
- Fall asleep with soil.
If you need several strips, the distance between the rows is 50-60 cm. A small amount of mint can be planted in separate holes.
During the first 3 weeks, the culture is regularly watered, preventing the soil from drying out. When shoots appear, they are weeded by hand, the top layer of the soil is peeled.
How to grow peppermint
Planted in a place suitable for culture and managed to take root, the plant practically does not need to be cared for. If the soil is fertile, and was previously filled with organic matter, mint is fed only at the end of the season with potassium-phosphorus preparations.
Nitrogen fertilizer can be given at the beginning of the growing season the following spring. But you cannot be zealous, especially if the culture is grown for cooking or healing. An excess of nitrates reduces the content of essential oils and increases the risk of developing fungal diseases.
Mint is grown without shelter, but in the snowless winter, it can freeze out. In cold regions, it is better to protect the crop with spruce branches or the fallen leaves of healthy fruit trees.
Peppermint is very demanding on soil and air moisture. Even after short-term drying, the crop quickly loses its leaves. On the other hand, the water should not stand under the bushes, otherwise the root and greenery will start to rot.
In the summer, mint is moistened 2-3 times a week, but you need to be guided by the weather and your own conditions - the composition of the soil, the illumination of the site. The position of the beds is of great importance - on a hill, daily watering may be required, in a lowland they need less.
Weeding and loosening the soil
The ground under the peppermint should be loose. But you can peel it off until the culture has grown - horizontal rhizomes quickly recover from damage, but they do not need to be disturbed once again. Therefore, when planting, they attach such great importance to the mechanical composition of the soil.
Weeds are ubiquitous. They grow inside mint bushes and require hand weeding. It is easiest to care for a garden bed where the crop grows in stripes. The row spacings are loosened and weeded entirely with a hoe or a flat cutter.
After 3 years, when the soil is compacted, and the roots of weeds and mint are intertwined, the culture is transferred to a new place.
This is what a small field of peppermint looks like.
Peppermint pests and diseases
While planting and caring for peppermint outdoors is easy and effortless, pests and diseases are a real challenge. It would seem that an essential oil crop should repel insects and destroy harmful spores. Unfortunately, this doesn't work with mint.
The culture has a lot of pests. The main ones are aphids, mint flea beetles, scale insects, leafhoppers, ticks, green scabbard weevils, mint leaf beetles, wireworms, pennies.
Mint leaves eaten by pests
It is necessary to destroy and scare away insects in the area intended for collecting medicinal and culinary raw materials using folk remedies. A crop grown for purely decorative purposes can be treated with insecticides, but you should not pick flowers and leaves after that.
Peppermint diseases - verticillium wilting, spotting, powdery mildew, rust, anthracnose, mycoplasma (overgrowth).
Mint leaves affected by powdery mildew
For preventive purposes, plant residues are removed from the site at the end of the season, more often they are transplanted.
When to harvest and how to dry peppermint
The greatest amount of nutrients and essential oil in peppermint is concentrated at the beginning of flowering. On industrial plantations, this is used and crops are harvested twice, mowing the upper part as soon as the buds begin to open.
You can pick fresh leaves for tea throughout the growing season. Those who love the smell of menthol take the lower ones. Those preferring a more delicate aroma, collect flowers and leaves from the top of the shoots.
When picking peppermint for drying
In most of Russia, the time when to dry peppermint is stretched from June to July. In the south, if you cut off the greens and flowers from the culture in early summer, you can wait for a new harvest by August.
Harvesting mint for medicinal purposes and cooking is carried out at the same time. But for tea and sauces, you don't need to take the bottom part - there is a lot of menthol, the smell and taste will be too harsh. On the contrary, it is this substance that is of the greatest importance for medicinal preparations.
Harvesting is carried out in the morning in hot dry weather. The culture is cut off entirely if it will be used to formulate medicinal mixtures. For culinary needs, only the top can be taken.
It is not recommended to wash the mint before sending it for drying - this will reduce the quality of the raw material. If it is very dirty after heavy rain or inaccurate watering, 2-3 days before collecting the greens, the bush is washed with water from a hose or watering can.
Cut shoots can be harvested whole, tied in bunches, or flowers and leaves can be cut off. Peppermint raw materials are dried at a temperature of 20-30 ° C. The bunches are freely hung, and the leaves are laid out on clean white paper in a well-ventilated, light-free room.
It is not recommended to use the attic in hot weather. The drying temperature for peppermint there will be noticeably higher, and the raw materials will lose a significant part of essential oils.
Important! It is better not to use an oven, dryer or other appliances.
Peppermint can be dried in bunches or single leaves
If the mint was dried in bunches, it is impossible to pick off the leaves to reduce the volume - this will again lead to the loss of nutrients. Store them whole, in tightly closed cardboard boxes at room temperature in a dry place. The leaves are taken as needed and in such quantities to be used at a time.
Peppermint separated from the stems is poured into glass jars and tightly closed with a lid. Keep at room temperature without access to light and moisture.
Important! The shelf life of mint is no more than 2 years.
Peppermint is useful in the kitchen and in the treatment of many diseases. The culture is easy to take root and does not require special care. Even the smell of fragrant herb can soothe, relieve fatigue and boost your mood.