Food Focus: Peppermint

It seems like something mint flavored is around every corner this time of year. Candy canes, chocolate candy, cookies, cakes, oh my! But there’s a lot behind the humble peppermint plant that gets overlooked when it’s dipped in chocolate and drenched in sugar. Come discover the lowdown on this superfood herb!

What does it look like?

Mint leaves are about 1-2” in length, dark green, and have a matte texture. They grow on a short, bushy plant (careful if you plan to plant one—they’re invasive).

What does it taste like?

Most folks describe the taste of mint as “cold” or “icy”. The flavor is very refreshing!

Why is it good for me?

If you’re looking to get the most health benefit from peppermint, skip the candy canes and head straight for the natural stuff—the best way to get your mint in is through the fresh leaves. Mint has been used for centuries in a variety of cultures as a natural digestive aid and all-around tummy tamer. Some studies have shown that regularly drinking peppermint tea may help to alleviate the symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Mint is also a common natural treatment for headaches, nausea, and nasal congestion. Also, additional research has shown that regular consumption of the enzymes in peppermint leaves may help fight cancer cells.

You can reap the rewards of mint without eating it too, mint essential oils added to your favorite lotion is a great way to refresh sore muscles after a tough workout (just make sure to avoid sensitive skin areas).


When and where do I get it?

Fresh mint leaves are available in most major supermarkets in the herb section of the produce market. You can also purchase dried peppermint tea in most supermarkets and health food stores, as well as peppermint essential oil (for external use).

Mint is also a breeze to grow. A few seeds in a pot of soil come this Spring, and you’ll have your very own fresh source of peppermint for years to come.

How do I prepare peppermint?

The most common way to get the benefits of fresh mint is to steep the leaves in a hot tea. To make the tea, tear 5-6 leaves into large chunks (to release the oils) and place in a tea cup. Cover with boiling water and let steep for 5-10 minutes. Remove the leaves and sweeten with honey, if desired.

What are some good recipes?

We trust you’ve got the peppermint cookies covered, check out some of these interesting ways to use fresh peppermint leaves:

What’s your favorite way to eat peppermint?

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Cassie Johnston is an award-winning food writer and recipe developer living and working in Southern Indiana. Her work has been feature in national publications such as Gourmet Magazine and The Huffington Post. Cassie’s a big fan of strenuous hikes, cheese, watching sports, Brussels sprouts, and craft beer, and she’ll talk your ear off about her love of local food and seasonal eating. She’s obsessed with social media and loves connecting with new friends!