Daniel Webster says that “Mint is any one of various aromatic plants of the family Labiatae, esp. a member of genus Mentha; native to Europe, Asia and Australia; widely cultivated for use as a flavoring.” Grown now in most regions of the world, it’s used as a flavoring in everything from spearmint gum and minty-fresh mouthwash, to mint ice cream and Mint Juleps. Mint’s favorite partner? Chocolate!

For centuries, mint has symbolized hospitality and wisdom. Ancient Hebrews scattered it on the floors of their synagogues so that each footstep would raise its fragrance. Ancient Greeks and Romans would rub mint into the wood of their tables before guests arrived. Mint was brought to  America by the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower.

The practical uses of mint are multi-faceted, some based on a disdain for the fragrance. The smell is known to repel mice, so farmers sometimes plant mint among their field grains. One particular type (pennyroyal) is used as an effective insecticide against fleas and aphids.

So now you know that mice, aphids and fleas find mint repulsive, but we humans regard it as a favored flavor and scent, finding it anything but repulsive! Of the forty varieties, three are best known. Spearmint is the most used in cooking, imparting a cool sensation to the mouth and a fresh, generally sweet flavor. Peppermint is much the same, but has a more vibrant menthol taste. Pennyroyal is aromatic, pungent and acrid, with a medicinal flavor.

Daily we use a myriad of products made with mint oils: tooth whiteners, toothpastes, mouth wash, medicines and preparations; chewing gum, confectionery, liquors, soaps, lotions, air fresheners. It’s even used to disguise the disagreeable flavor of cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

Mint and medicine are long-time partners. Easily found in centuries-old literature are references like, “Mintes (sic) are sometimes used in baths to comfort and strengthen the nerves and sinews; Much used either outwardly applied or inwardly drunk to strengthen and comfort weak stomackes (sic)”. As noted in early medical books, it was applied to soothe sore eyes, treat sores, heal the bites of mad dogs, and relieve bee and wasp stings. Inhaled, its use was suggested to comfort the head and memory. When gargled it was sure to cure sore mouths and gums whatever the cause. Today, when eaten with chocolate, it cures what ails us!

This  Month’s Heavenly Selection from Your Favorite Chocolate of the Month Club:   “PERFECT PITCH”  — Middle pieces are — WHITE PEPPERMINT CHOCOLATE  — Outer pieces include — MILK CHOCOLATE & DARK CHOCOLATE WITH DRIED CRANBERRIES & WALNUT CLUSTERS

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