Chocolate mint (Mentha piperita) cultivars are hybrids between water mint (Mentha aquatica) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). Although it seems unlikely that the flavor of chocolate would result from a cross between the two species, the leaves of the chocolate mint plant do have a taste reminiscent of peppermint patty candy. The scent is similar to chocolate and mint blend, as well.
Chocolate mint plants grow to a height of 2 feet. The leaves are green or green and burgundy, and spikes of lavender flowers appear in the summer. Brushing against the leaves activates the aroma of mint-flavored chocolate, earning the plant a spot in many scented gardens. Chocolate mint will stand out in a garden filled with a variety of scented plants, including lemon balm, scented geraniums, pineapple sage and rosemary. Showcase a separate grouping of several chocolate mint plants or create a mint garden that displays a collection of Mentha cultivars.
Chocolate mint tends to spread vigorously, often becoming invasive. For that reason, some gardeners locate the plant in a spot at the edge of the garden where rapid expansion will not be an issue. If you don't have the space to allow chocolate mint to spread, plant it in a pot. Since they spread by rhizomes, corralling the mint in a container keeps it under control. Sink the pot into the ground for a natural appearance or place a plant in a large container, either alone or in combination with other herbs. Create a collection of potted herbs in small containers as a thoughtful gift for gardeners, and include a chocolate mint seedling. Add a few recipes and it makes a good gift for food lovers.
The leaves of the chocolate mint plant are useful as a tea or as an additive to other beverages. The flavor grows stronger when the leaves are dried, but freshly picked chocolate mint leaves make a nice cup of tea. Steep the leaves in hot water to brew a pot of tea with a delicate mint flavor that has overtones of chocolate. To brew chocolate-mint sun tea, toss a handful of the leaves into a large jar and set it in the sun for a few hours. Add ice and serve with a sprig of chocolate mint leaves.
Edible Garnishes and Flavoring
Place dried chocolate mint leaves in a strainer and pour hot coffee over them, or enclose them in a tea ball and let them steep in a cup of orange pekoe tea. For a garnish with an unexpected flavor, freeze one or two fresh leaves in ice cubes and add them to cold drinks such as iced tea, ginger ale or cola drinks. Sprinkle the dried leaves over vanilla ice cream or any dessert that blends well with chocolate. Harvest a few blemish-free leaves and garnish desserts with them, especially those you top with whipped cream.
- Texas A&M Cooperative Extension; Chocolate Mint; David Rodriguez; July 2006
- University of Florida Extension; Great Herb Garden Combinations; Anita S. Neal
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension: Take a Child Outside Week
- University of California Cooperative Extension; Gardening for the Senses; Cecile Garrison
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Mentha x piperita f. citrate 'Chocolate'
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images
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