Peppermint vs. Spearmint: What’s the Difference?

Spearmint and peppermint have slightly different uses, but either one makes a great addition to any herb garden.
Spearmint and peppermint have slightly different uses, but either one makes a great addition to any herb garden.
tracy ducasse, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you’ve ever eyed the chewing gum options at the check-out counter, you’re probably aware there’s a difference between peppermint and spearmint. But—beyond the trend of selling peppermint gum in blue packs and spearmint in green—what exactly is that difference?

Though peppermint and spearmint are both mint plants in the Mentha genus, peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is actually a hybrid of spearmint (Mentha spicata) and water mint (Mentha aquatica). When it comes to shared characteristics, peppermint and spearmint both have serrated leaves, produce pink or light purple flowers, spread via underground stems called stolons, and contain menthol—the chemical compound behind that familiar cooling sensation. However, there’s a pretty significant discrepancy between their levels of menthol, which helps explain the flavor differences between the two types.

While peppermint’s menthol content is a whopping 40 percent, spearmint contains just 0.5 percent. Therefore, as Taste of Home explains, peppermint is especially pungent and even spicy (hence the “pepper” in its name). Spearmint, on the other hand, contains a compound called carvone, which gives it a much subtler, sweeter flavor. Because peppermint has such a strong taste, it’s usually the main focus of whatever dish or drink it’s in—think candy canes or peppermint tea. If you’re cooking something savory with a variety of other herbs, you’re better off using spearmint, whose sweetness will offset the blend of flavors without overpowering them.

According to Spoon University, the two mints are similar enough that you can substitute one for another if your grocery store doesn’t happen to carry both. And, if you’re having trouble remembering which flavor goes with which mint, those colorful gum wrappers might help—peppermint’s icy coolness matches blue, while spearmint’s earthy sweetness goes with green.

[h/t Taste of Home]

Blue Apron’s Memorial Day Sale Will Save You $60 On Your First Three Boxes

Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

If you’ve gone through all the recipes you had bookmarked on your phone and are now on a first-name basis with the folks at the local pizzeria, it might be time to introduce a new wrinkle into your weekly dinner menu. But instead of buying loads of groceries and cookbooks to make your own meal, you can just subscribe to a service like Blue Apron, which will deliver all the ingredients and instructions you need for a unique dinner.

And if you start your subscription before May 26, you can save $20 on each of your first three weekly boxes from the company. That means that whatever plan you choose—two or four meals a week, vegetarian or the Signature plan—you’ll save $60 in total.

With the company’s Signature plan, you’ll get your choice of meat, fish, and Beyond foods, along with options for diabetes-friendly and Weight Watchers-approved dishes. The vegetarian plan loses the meat, but still allows you to choose from a variety of dishes like General Tso's tofu and black bean flautas.

To get your $60 off, head to the Blue Apron website and click “Redeem Offer” at the top of the page to sign up.

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Why Did Noon Used to Mean 3 p.m.?

3 p.m. is basically noon for people who wake up at 12 p.m.
3 p.m. is basically noon for people who wake up at 12 p.m.
Mckyartstudio/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re a late sleeper, you might find yourself thinking 12 p.m. seems way too early to be considered midday, and the word noon would much better describe, say, 3 p.m. It turns out that ancient Romans would have agreed with you, if only for etymological reasons.

As Reader’s Digest explains, the days in ancient Rome were split into four periods of three hours each. The first hour was at sunrise around 6 a.m.—called prime, for first—followed by 9 a.m. (terce, denoting the third hour), 12 p.m. (sext, for sixth), and 3 p.m. (none, for ninth).

According to Merriam-Webster, Middle and Old English borrowed the time-keeping tradition, along with the Latin word for ninth, which was changed to nōn and eventually noon. Though we’re not sure exactly when or why noon started referring to 12 p.m. instead of 3 p.m., it could have something to do with Christian prayer traditions. In the Bible, Jesus’s crucifixion is said to have taken place at the ninth hour, and that’s when worshippers partook in their second of three daily prayers; the others were in the morning and evening. It’s possible that hungry monks were behind noon’s gradual shift from 3 p.m. to 12 p.m.—since their daily fast didn’t end until after the midday prayer, they had a built-in motive for moving it earlier.

While we didn’t exactly stay true to the original Latin meaning of noon, there’s another important remnant of ancient Rome hiding in the way we tell time today. Romans referred to 12 p.m. as meridiem, for midday, and so do we. A.M. is an abbreviation for ante meridiem, or before midday, and P.M. means post meridiem, or after midday.

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