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Fresh Mint Photo

Fresh mint

Photo © Jim Stanfield

Greek name and pronunciation:

Dyosmos, δυόσμος, pronounced thee-OHZ-mohs (hard th sound)

At the market:

Spearmint is the most common mint found in markets, and the most commonly used in Greek cooking. It is sold in both dried and fresh form, and if fresh is available, it is preferred. It is also a good choice for a home herb garden since it grows well.

Physical characteristics:

The plant grows to a height of about two feet. The leaves are a rich green, lance shaped with jagged edges, and the whole plant has a wonderful smell. Flowers are tubular, pink to pink-lilac in color, and very fragrant.

Usage:

In Greek cooking, mint is used in everything from cheese dishes to tomato-based sauces, meats, and rice dishes. Steeped fresh mint is a favorite herbal tea, and commercially, mint is used as a flavoring in candies, gums, food, and drinks. The essential oils are used in confections. And, of course, sprigs of fresh mint add lovely decorative touches.

Substitutes:

Fresh parsley with a touch of dried mint, basil

Greek food folklore:

Mint has many perceived health benefits that Greeks have handed down through the generations. Some of these include:

Steeped Leaves (tea)

  • aids digestion and colon health
  • calms nausea and vomiting
  • generally calms stomach and intestinal upsets.

Fresh Leaves

  • rub on forehead to relieve headache
  • rub on skin to relieve itching
  • inhale aroma to relieve nasal congestion.

Origin, History, and Mythology:

According to Greek mythology, Hades, ruler of the Underworld, fell in love with the nymph Menthe. Persephone, Hades's wife, became wildly jealous and began to trample Menthe. Hades rushed forward and transformed Menthe into a shrub to keep her near him always. Persephone was appeased, thinking that Menthe would be trampled for eternity beneath the feet of passersby, but Hades gave Menthe a wonderfully sweet fragrance he could cherish each time he passed by.

The word "mint" derives from the Greek.

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