• Peppermint (M. ×piperita). Many varieties available. ‘Chocolate’, with its dark stems and slight but distinct chocolate aroma, is a favorite and is easy to find at garden centers; another to try is ‘Lime’.
• Orange mint (M. ×piperita ‘Orange’ or ‘Citrata’). A refreshing peppermint hybrid that goes by a number of different names. Attractive and fast-growing, often with a purplish tinge to the new growth.
• Grapefruit mint (M. ×piperita ‘Grapefruit’). This bushy herb has a strong grapefruit flavor. One of the best in terms of fragrance and flavor and is not as aggressive as most.
• Lemon mint (M. ×piperita ‘Hillary’s Sweet Lemon’). Mint hybrid with a sweet spearmint scent with a hint of citrus. Named for Hillary Clinton.
• Spearmint (M. spicata). Spearmint is considered the best for culinary use. Try ‘Kentucky Colonel’ for its large, ruffled leaves and clean flavor, or ‘Crispa’. ‘Nana’ is a cultivar used in Moroccan cooking.
• Apple mint (M. ×villosa), also called woolly apple mint. Vigorous, upright grower, attractive light green leaves that are softly fuzzy. Excellent flavor.
• Pennyroyal (M. pulegium) Keep this one separate from the others, because despite its strong, minty fragrance, it has been shown to be toxic in large quantities. Enjoy its scent, not its flavor. It is a bit more susceptible to frost than most.
• Pineapple mint (M. suaveolens ‘Variegata’). This is a handsome plant with its variegated leaves, splashed with cream blotches, and sweet scent.
• Corsican mint (M. requienii). This herb provides the original flavoring in crème de menthe. Low-growing with tiny leaves, forming mats, and is sometimes grown between paving stones in a walkway, but can be difficult to grow in too-wet or too-dry conditions.
• Water mint (M. aquatica). This one is difficult to find in the nursery trade, but worth the challenge of cultivating because it is often crossed with spearmint and is a parent of peppermint and some of the interesting fruit-scented hybrids. Likes wet conditions.
Kathleen Halloran is a contributing editor living in beautiful Austin, Texas.
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