By Erica Wallace
Summer horticulture intern
This is the perennial herb for anyone with a sweet tooth. Mentha × piperita f. citrata ‘Chocolate’, commonly known as chocolate mint, is a cultivar of peppermint. Growers took the fresh, crisp smell of peppermint and cultivated it to smell like what I describe as a peppermint mocha, but others will describe it as Andes Mints. Many will even argue there is no hint of chocolate in the scent. Have you smelled it yet? We’d love to hear what it brings to mind for you.
Chocolate mint can do wonders in the kitchen. Fresh leaves can be added to drinks like tea or lemonade to give the drink a sweet kick. If the scent of the plant is reminiscent of a peppermint mocha to you as well, be inspired to grind up some leaves with your morning brew. Freshen up the flavor of dessert with this herb, adding it to a milkshake or using it as a garnish for a baked good. Cuttings of chocolate mint can be used fresh but also dried or frozen. Add this to your kitchen herb garden and explore more delicious ideas.
Mentha ‘Chocolate’ will thrive in full sun and moist soil. This cultivar has a darker appearance than its relatives, with darker stems and dark green foliage. However, similar to other mint species it will spread easily in the ground, so plant this herb in a container to control it. Not only does this plant work its magic on our noses and taste buds, it is also loved by pollinators. It features purple flowers in the summer that are rich in pollen and nectar. Expect bees, butterflies, moths and other visitors. This plant is hardy to zones 3-9. It can be propagated via cuttings, runners or division.
Chocolate mint is growing in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden at Duke Gardens. It is accompanied by other aromatic mints such as apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) and ‘Berries and Cream’ mint (Mentha ‘Berries and Cream’). Delightful culinary herbs are plentiful in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden!
Photo by Erica Wallace.