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Aug 7, 2009 05:48 PM

What is this mint?

Today I got a bunch of mint from an Asian grower at a farmers' market near Boston. It's not catnip - I can recognize the several catnip varieties common around here - but while it has a minty smell, there's also a skunky, musky undertone and flavor similar to that of catnip. Not having taken a whiff, I put a sprig in some Sprite and then found it unpleasant. It looks like the online picture of spearmint in Wikipedia, and has the square stem they describe for watermint. The picture of peppermint isn't great but it looks like that, too - understandable since peppermint is a hybrid of the two. I've rarely bought fresh mint and my thumb is sufficiently black that when I planted a clump that was overrunning a friend's lawn, it died.
Do I have an odd variety, or do I just not like fresh mint? (No functioning camera so I can't supply a picture - deeply-veined, serrated leaves about 1x1-3/4")

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  1. I'd think you'd know it was spearmint if you chewed on it. Maybe this snack not for you? ;)

      1. re: Karl S

        That is beautiful stuff. Have you had it before? I love the purple undersides!

        1. re: kattyeyes

          Indeed -- gorgeous.

          We've had red shiso and it has lots of uses. One thing we did was infuse it in vinegar. The most beautiful rose colored vinegar. Smelled and tasted great too.

          We couldn't find the red shiso seedlings this year. Maybe we need to order seeds and also get seeds for some of the Vietnamese shiso in the picture.

          1. re: kattyeyes

            I've had it at vietnamese restaurants in LA, as part of the herb plate you get with your pho or noodle/meat dishes. So lovely. It does have a distinct cilantro/mint/basil combination flavor.♠

          2. re: Karl S

            Green on both sides, so not perilla.....tastes like spearmint that encountered a skunk (maybe it did!)

            1. re: greygarious

              I think there are perilla varieties that are green on both sides. We had some in our garden last year. (Couldn't find the stuff with red that year in the local nurseries. Definitely going with seeds next year to get that.)

              1. re: karykat

                the japanese perilla (shiso) is green on both sides. if you order sashimi you have had this on your plate at some point. it is also lovely chopped up and added to rice

                how does one add a picture? i have some growing right now

                1. re: thew

                  When you reply again, click on "attach photo"...before you do so, though, make sure the size of your pic is less than 2 MG. If it works, just report this post of mine so it disappears. Thanks...and looking forward to seeing your perilla.

            2. It might be a scented geranium. They come in many varieties and have many scents and uses.... none of which is really culinary. I've grown several varieties in my garden over the years, but never to cook with. Here's a link which explains:

              OTOH: There are also many varieties of mint some of which are culinary. As in chocolate mint which friends of mine used in Brownies to mask another otherwise unmistakable scent which was to be avoided at all cost or so said the scent police.
              In the 70s. Just sayin'.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Gio

                Gio, this was sold in a cut bunch, alongside cilantro, so I don't think it is supposed to be non-culinary - it just worked out that way for me! Too bad I don't need to garnish about 50 dessert plates!

                1. re: greygarious

                  Fresh mint is pungent, GG... whether it's peppermint, spearmint or another. And, the square stem Is characteristic of the mint family. Perhaps the grower had additives (such as compost with strong components) in the garden soil which enhanced certain properties. I'm wracking my brain to figure this out...

                  1. re: Gio

                    Maybe whip up a batch of those "special" brownies you told us about and see if it comes to you in a vision. ;)

                    1. re: kattyeyes

                      maybe some variety of holy basil? that's musky but not so much minty tasting. It's popular in Asian cuisine. Here's some photos