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In Search of Wooly Mint

You’ve probably heard of peppermint and spearmint. But there are more than 20 other varieties out there too.

It’s in toothpaste. It’s in candy canes. It’s in mojitos. In whatever form it crosses your path, it’s hard to miss the distinctive taste and aroma of this well-known herb.

It grows well in flowerpots, provided it gets enough water. It grows like a weed in a sunny, well-watered yard and if left unchecked will pretty much take over everything.

We have spearmint and peppermint growing in our yard and we dry it all summer long. We regularly tie in it bunches from our clothesline, and then fill spice jars with it for cooking and making teas.

All of this made me pretty proud of myself and my knowledge of the world of mint, until a recent stroll through our yard with a neighbor put me in my place.

As he was passing the corner of the flowerbed in which my prized mint is growing he said, “Oh look, you have wooly tea growing.”

I replied with a very articulate, “Huh?” or something similar.

Do you know how to recognize wooly mint? Got tips for telling it apart from other mints? Share your insights with us in the comments. Got a picture of wooly mint? Upload it here.

He proceeded to bend down and touch the leaves of the mint plant that I had previously been calling spearmint and tell us that it was a plant that used to grow all over his yard as a kid that they would boil and make into iced tea. A tea they called wooly tea.

We boil it and make it into ice tea too. We just call it spearmint tea.

So I set off on a research endeavor to locate a picture of wooly mint and determine once and for all what kind of mint we are growing.

While I learned a lot about mint, including the fact that catnip is actually a type of mint that goes by the name cat mint. Apparently, humans can drink catnip tea, which has a lemony and minty taste, according to the web site called Gryphon’s Book of Teas.

In addition to catnip, there are 25-30 other varieties of mint – spearmint, peppermint – OK, I knew those – pineapple mint, penny royal and apple mint, also known as wooly mint.

After staring at online pictures of wooly mint for more time that I care to admit, I still can’t tell if what we have is spearmint or wooly mint. Can you?

jennifer August 07, 2012 at 12:20 PM
I have the same plants, too! I've often wondered what kind it is!? I hope someone can help us find out definitively!
Mike Roseman August 08, 2012 at 02:48 AM
I'm pretty sure that's wooly/apple mint. It's a little more fuzzy than what spearmint looks like online. I have some I took from my mom, who got it from her mom. Makes the best iced teas and a great mint syrup. (1c sugar,1/2c water, microwave until sugar dissolves and steep 1oz mint for 5min, discard)
Jennifer Marangos (Editor) August 08, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Thanks for your comment @Mike Roseman. My husband seems to think it's a spearmint plant that he bought at a plant sale. I think it's the mint that was growing in our yard when we moved in that was more like wooly mint. Whatever it is, I am going to try a batch of iced tea today and that mint syrup too!

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