Mint, Orange Mint (Mentha citrata, Mentha Piperita citrata)

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Mint, Orange Mint (Mentha citrata, Mentha Piperita citrata)

Common Names 

Orange Bergamot Mint, Bergamot Mint, Eau-de-Cologne Mint

About This Plant

Orange Mint, known for its strong, pleasant citrus flavor, grows erect to about two feet in height and two feet wide.  If left unbothered and unharvested, it can grow into four foot high shrubs. It is not recommended to allow it to grow so large however as the quality of its taste and aroma diminishes as the plant climaxes. It is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9. It is not frost tolerant and while perennial, its quality will diminish after about three to five years.  In colder climates it can be grown as an annual or potted and brought indoors in Winter. Orange Mint is somewhat more manageable than many of the other Mints. The whole plant is smooth and dotted with yellow glands. It is dark green in colour and generally tinged with purple, especially the margins of the leaves which are finely serrated, oval-shaped, and about two inches long.  The stems are purplish-green or burgundy in color. Lines of the yellow glands can be seen on the purple calyx.  

The white, pink, or lavender flowers bloom in dense spikes between mid- to late-Summer. 

 

This Mint tastes and smells slightly of Oranges or citrus. It’s a pleasant aromatic herb that is considered less harsh or overpowering than its relatives Spearmint and Peppermint. It does have a reputation for being more potent, however, with its highly concentrated flavor and aroma and it’s easy to go overboard with it in the kitchen, so use it in moderation.  The strong odor of Orange Mint is due to the two chemical constituents, linalyl acetate and linalool which together make up 90% of its total oil.  The oil of Orange Mint is used for adding scent to perfumes and soaps.

 

Orange Mint is one of the 130 herbs used in the making of chartreuse liqueur, made by the Carthusian monks of France.  This cultivated mint is also known by the names Eau de Cologne Mint and Bergamot Mint.  

Sowing

Orange Mint is commonly propagated by seed and germination is relatively quick (in about two weeks), but since it is a hybrid, its seeds don’t always grow true to the parent.  The seedlings are likely to contain various levels of the therapeutic properties and oils.  Root divisions and cuttings are a sure way to know what it is you’re growing. Root division can happen in the Spring or Autumn.

 

Transplanting

Orange Mint can be spaced about 18 to 24 inches apart.

Cultivation

Orange Mint will tolerate full sun to partial shade.  Partial shade will produce more lush foliage but full sun will produce a higher concentration of oil for a more robust aroma and flavor.  Orange Mint can be used to fill in damp, dense areas of your yard where nothing else will thrive. It does fine being neglected and can thrive even in long grass. It does not tolerate drought and keep in mind that it will hybridize very readily with other Mints.  Pruning back the plant, especially the older woody portions, will help keep the plant manageable and produce fresher leaves for a higher quality yield.  While Orange Mint is slightly frost tolerant, it will fade rapidly with temperature fluctuations.  Cut it back to the ground at the end of the season.  It is advised to not grow it near Chamomile as Chamomile will inhibit the Mint’s ability to produce its essential oils which give it its characteristic flavor and aroma. 

Seed Harvest

As stated above, since Orange Mint is a hybrid, its seeds may not grow true to the parent plant, and contain various levels of its essential oil that gives it its flavor and aroma.  For harvesting seeds, however, simply wait for the flower spikes to mature and brown. Harvest the sprigs of blossoms and hang upside down to dry in a warm, shady, dry place. Once dry, simply roll the flower heads between your fingers over a container to crumble and catch the plant material.  Seeds must then be winnowed or separated from the chaff. 

Plant Uses

  • Culinary
  • Medicinal
  • Filling in damp, dense areas 

Culinary Uses

Orange Mint is known for its strong and pleasant citrus flavor. It’s considered a milder Peppermint and a little bit can go a long way. Fresh leaves are always best, but it dries and stores well, retaining much of its flavor and aroma for up to six months. The tender new growth has the best flavor.  Since it is a close relative to Peppermint, it can work anywhere Peppermint does in culinary creations.  Its citrus overtones make it especially well-paired with fish or in citrus-based cocktails such as mojitos. Some mixologists infuse the leaves into vodka, allowing them to steep for several weeks before straining and enjoying.  Adding a few chopped up leaves into a chocolate cake batter can give the cake a refreshing boost. Orange Mint can work well in many creamy and chocolatey desserts.  While the flavor is a bit intense for a green salad, Orange Mint can go nicely in a vinaigrette or in a fruit salad or a grain salad. Orange Mint can go nicely with Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines which often use Mint and citrus together. 

 

Medicinal Uses

While sharing many of the medicinal qualities of the other Mints, Orange Mist is particularly held in high esteem for its antiseptic attributes that are said to be quite similar to those of Lavender.  It also has a history of use in treating nervous exhaustion, rapid heartbeat, infertility, and other conditions.  For medicinal purposes, leaves are collected as soon as the plant starts producing flowers.

Origin

Orange Mint in native to Europe.

 

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