It is the end of the season here in Ohio, the last chance to get everything harvested and safely into the larder. On our farm this means bringing in the last of the peppers and tomatoes, digging the potatoes and harvesting the final batches of herbs.
We’ve had a really nice fall – it hasn’t been too dry or too wet. This has meant spectacular fall color and it has also meant a regrowth of some of the typical spring weeds. Just this week I found a new patch of cleavers and a beautiful bunch of nettles! With the last beautiful day I brought in all the peppermint, spearmint, calendula, borage, comfrey and sage I could find. Peppermint and spearmint can take a bit of the cold, but none of these herbs will survive a hard frost.
What do you know about spearmint?
I mean, what do you really know? I was surprised a few years back to discover that it’s more than just the flavor of gum my grandmother kept in her purse during church. Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is often ignored in favor of its warmer cousin, peppermint (Mentha piperita). It is still a good strong mint with plenty of good qualities of its own:
- In aromatherapy it is known to relieve tension and lift our mood
- Historically, it was so valuable that it was mentioned in the Bible as one of the original ways to pay your tithes!
- It’s traditionally used for mouth cleaning and teeth whitening.
- It can be helpful for digestive issues and to calm the stomach.
- Spearmint can be a mild stimulant.
- It may be helpful to bring on a sweat and break a fever (making it a Febrifuge).
- Most exciting and maybe surprising, it has shown some amazing results in clinical studies that were done on its volatile oils. In 2007, a University in Turkey found that it is effective in reducing the amount of free roaming testosterone in the blood of women. This is especially important in the case of hirsutism, or the mild, abnormal growth of hair in what is considered to be inappropriate places. The dosage that caused the change was 2 cups a day (morning and evening) for the five days prior to ovulation.
If you are late in harvesting your spearmint like myself, it’s okay, you can still get it in. It is usually best to harvest this plant in the summer, but on a warm day in the fall it will still fill with volatile oils.
The big thing to watch at this time of year are the insect hitchhikers. Right now, there are all kinds of bugs that have spun their webs on the undersides of leaves or rolled them up into protective shelters. Late harvest, especially of mints, requires a bit more care discarding of the leaves that house critters. I speak from experience when I say, it is very upsetting to do all that work drying your herbs only to find that something has hatched out in the jar and eaten the fruits of your labors!
Once you have harvested your spearmint, learn how to dry it here.
How do you use spearmint?
Share with us in the comments section below!