Friday, December 4, 2009

Mentha piperata 'Citrata', Eau de Cologne Mint

Mentha x piperita 'Citrata', Eau de Cologne Mint or Bergamot Mint
This is a plant I can't live without and it really comes into its own during Summer. This mint is distinguished by having rounded leaves which are bronze green when given a spot with lots of water or bronze purple when in dry conditions. Like all mints it is a rampant grower and the overground stems it sends out in all directions have a metallic purple tinge to them. In late Summer it produces lilac flowers as a terminal spike on tall stems to 60cm. I like to grow it close to a path where it can be crushed by passing traffic or where the mower cuts it back releasing its perfume.
The poet Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774) summed this up perfectly in the following lines 'As aromatic plants bestow, No spicy fragrance while they grow, But crushed or trodden to the ground, Diffuse their balmy sweets around.' The fragrance of eau de cologne mint is a wonderful mixture of citrus and lavender. In fact it is used as a source of lavender oil for perfumery.
The various aromatic nuances of mint are also important in the southern states of America for the making of mint juleps.To make a good "Blue Grass" mint julep, use icy frosted tall glasses,  add lots of crushed ice and a good sprig of eau de cologne mint. To this, add 2 tspns sugar syrup and a big splash of Kentucky bourbon whisky, then top with more crushed ice. A perfect drink at the end of the day in Summer. It is interesting to note that during the temperance crusade of the prohibition years of the 1930's even mint was supposed to be uprooted from gardens in case one was tempted to indulge in a julep.....A bootleg kinda julep.
Again I must let a poet sum up this delightful drink, and this time it is John Milton (1608-1674): 'Behold this cordial Julep here, That foams and dances in his crystal bounds, With spirits of balm and fragrant syrups mix'd.'
Another interesting way to use eau de cologne mint is to use it to make an orange flavoured jelly. All you do is pour boiling water over a handful of leaves and leave it to steep for awhile and then strain it and use the liquid to make up the jelly . This is great in a dessert trifle with lots of lime zest.
The perfume eau de cologne had its origins in the German city of Cologne (Koln) and the most famous brand is 4711.


  1. Ian,
    This is a lovely plant and the tea and jelly must be nice. I have made spearmint jelly and loved it. My neighbor sometimes picks my Apple Mint and makes tea too. I'm staying away from adding anymore mints as I have hoary mountain mint completely out of control in one bed and outside the bed.

  2. Ian, when I see mint growing, I am immediately thinking of Spring & Mint Juleps! It is not only the fresh mint, but the silver mint julep cup filled with crushed ice and good Kentucky Bourbon that conjures up images of horses running for the roses...

    Your orange flavored jelly recipe & method sounds wonder, too. Thanks