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THE CULTIVATION OF PEPPERMINT AND SPEARMINT Ja m e s E. L a n d in g Pennsylvania State University The association of mint with the southern United States has become so strong in the American mind, that many lifetime residents of the northern states are surprised to discover that the bulk of national mint production takes place north of 40 degrees latitude. To many, the recollection of a few springs of mint growing in the back yard, or along a nearby stream bank, is their sole association with the plant, and dropping the leaves into a “tonic” or “julep,” its only use. Few realize that over 60,000 acres of commercial peppermint and spearmint were har­ vested in the United States in 1961 in our country, producing better than 4 million pounds of mint oil, which sold for an average price of $4.20 per pound, for a gross farm revenue exceeding $17,000,000.1 The figures for the most recent complete summary of American produc­ tion are given in table 1. The same year, 1961, Americans exported nearly 1.4 million pounds of oil, worth an additional $6,700,000.2 Although mint oil is commonly used as a subtle blend in distinguished liqueurs (crème de menthe), its most common use is as the flavoring ingredient in chewing gum. Nearly 54% (this is probably conservative) of the mint oil consumed in the United States is used for this purpose.3 Mint oils are commonly used in jams, jellies, medicines, dentifrices, ex­ tracts, and candies, and there is a limited market for the dried herb. In this country, only two forms of mint are grown commercially; peppermint {Mentha piperita L.), and spearmint (Mentha spicata L. and Mentha cardiaca G .)4, although a third form, Japanese mint {Mentha arvensis L .), sometimes mistakenly referred to as Japanese peppermint) is common­ ly cultivated in Japan and other countries, and had a brief history in the United States.5 Spearmint production in the United States is concentrated in Washington, Indiana, and Michigan, and peppermint production in Washington and Oregon, with smaller acreages in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan. New developments are also taking place in Idaho and Nevada. The mints are perennial herbs and, because they seldom set seeds, must be propagated vegetatively. For a number of years, the U. S. Department of Agriculture has published a bulletin describing the cultivation and distillation techniques involved,3 Although the major mint producing states are found in the north, there has always been evidence of interest in commercial cultivation in the southern states, and Table 1 shows that southern mint farms do exist. Although the origin of the use remains unknown, the mint farms of the northern states were, for a long period of time, referred to as plantations,7 28 TABLE 1 COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION OF MINT FOR OÏL IN THE UNITED STATES IN 1959 State No. of Farms Acres Pounds of Oil California 1 1 125 Idaho 6 202 18,360 Indiana 304 9,491 319,402 Maryland 1 1 30 Michigan 169 6,241 192,643 Minnesota 1 35 1,100 Nevada 1 10 135 Oregon 288 15,274 1,049,892 Texas 1 10 135 Washington 420 18,908 1,471,421 Wisconsin 40 4,628 167,790 U. S. 1,232 54,801 3,221,298 Yields of Oil in Price per Pound Total State lbs. per Acre S value $ California 125.0 4.00 500 Idaho 90.9 3.00 55,080 Indiana 33.7 5.50 1,756,714 Maryland 30.0 3.33 100 Michigan 30.9 5.10 982,480 Minnesota 31.4 5.45 6,000 Nevada 13.5 3.00 405 Oregon 68.7 3.40 3,569,633 Texas 40.0 3.75 1,500 Washington 77.8 2.90 4,267,122 Wisconsin 36.3 5.12 858,571 U. S. 58.8 3.57 11,498.105 Source: U. S. Census of Agriculture: 1959, Vol. II, Ch. VII, p. 864. and early growers often left mint in the same field for 40 years or longer.8 Oils were extracted from the mint plants in the southern states probably from early...


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