Spearmint and peppermint both obviously belong to the mint family. Although they have their own unique qualities when it comes to flavor and appearance, a lot of people who are not familiar with both plants end up having “mint confusion”. That is, they will end up mistaking one for the other.
Both of these mints are highly prized as flavor enhancers. They can easily bring life to a lot of dishes especially when it comes to desserts. They are also used a lot when it comes to making cocktails and refreshing beverages. The two of them can also be used to treat minor ailments at home.
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There are as much as 600 varieties of mint available today, many of them can easily be grown indoors. As you might have known, the mint family has a lot of similarities. This is basically why it can be quite difficult to distinguish one from the other. Here’s how you can tell spearmint from peppermint:
Although both are members of the mint family, these two are actually different species. Peppermint is known as Mentha piperita and spearmint is Mentha spicata. In terms of appearance, you need to know that all mints have green leaves that appear in pairs which are opposite each other.
They also have sturdy, square stems. In order for you to differentiate spearmint VS peppermint plants, you need to take a look at the finer details. Spearmint plants will grow flowers that are in terminal clusters, the shape of the flowers will also taper.
On the other hand, the blossoms of the peppermint plant will grow on a terminal. It will also appear whorled instead of tapering. When it comes to the leaves, spearmint leaves are oblong in shape and they are rounded and lanced. While peppermint leaves appear to be toothed and they also look sharp.
These two mints also have different flavor profiles. Spearmint has a sweet, mild and delicate flavor which comes from carvone. This chemical is what gives the spearmint its unique taste and it is also what creates the familiar flavor that you will get when eating Wrigley’s chewing gum.
Peppermint on the other hand, has a stronger flavor and a cooler aftertaste. This is because its flavor profile comes mainly from menthol. Spearmint only contains 0.5% menthol, while peppermint has a whopping 40% menthol composition. This creates a pronounced, bold taste that many tend to love.
Many people like using mint because they want to add the cooling sensation that it can provide in order to take the edge off of their cocktails, or to add another layer of flavor to their desserts. If you want to create a strong cooling effect, then I recommend that you use peppermint.
But if you want to add just a hint of menthol, then you should use spearmint instead. Keep in mind that menthol does not actually change the temperature of anything. It will just trick your receptors into thinking that you are using or consuming something cold.
Since peppermint has a very strong menthol flavor and content, it is rarely used in making dishes and beverages. Although it can be used in making different kinds of candies, you should understand that they are typically used in making products that can be used as medicine or for improving hygiene.
Spearmint on the other hand, is typically used for Mediterranean food, cocktails and other beverages because it does not have a strong menthol flavor and because it has hints of sweetness. These two however, can be used to make teas, baked pastries and in making chocolate much more decadent.
Spearmint is a naturally occurring herb and it has a much sweeter aroma. Peppermint on the other hand is actually a mint hybrid, which is why it has a strong smell. The first thing you should do to tell these plants apart is by crushing the leaves and by trying to smell how strong the menthol aroma is.
Spearmint and peppermint can sometimes be very hard to distinguish from each other simply because both are closely related to each other in the mint family. They can look very much alike; the only way to tell them apart with regards to their appearance is by taking a closer look at their leaves and flowers.
If you want to truly differentiate spearmint from peppermint, you should try to pick a leaf and taste it. The peppermint plant contains a lot of menthol, giving it a strong and more pronounced flavor. The spearmint on the other hand, is much milder. It also has a subtle sweet and familiar taste.
When it comes to their uses, both can be added to enhance dishes and to make a wide range of recipes. The spearmint however, is more ideally used in making cocktails. The peppermint on the other hand, is prized for its high menthol content, which is why it is typically used to make mentholated products.
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