Orange mint is a mint varietal which has been bred to have a distinctive citrus odor and flavor which is strongly reminiscent of oranges. This mint cultivar can be used in a variety of ways around the home and garden, and it is often available from garden stores in the form of seeds or seedlings. You can also grow orange mint from cuttings, if you happen to know someone with an orange mint plant who will allow you to take a cutting.
This mint varietal is also known as Bergamot mint, eau de cologne mint, or Mentha piperia ssp. citrata, if you want to be formal. Like other mints, it has a distinctive squared stem, simple lightly serrated leaves, and a rich aroma. The leaves of orange mint are a dark green tinged with red. When allowed to grow freely, orange mint will branch out significantly, turning into a sprawling shrub. It may be trimmed to contain and shape it, keeping it under control and encouraging tender new growth. It also takes extremely well to container gardening, and can even be grown indoors on a sunny windowsill.
If you live in USDA zones four through 11, you can grow orange mint as a perennial. It may die back somewhat during the winter in colder zones, but it will come back with a vengeance in the spring. In the garden, orange mint can be used to attract butterflies, and it can also make an excellent aromatic groundcover or border. Orange mint also works well as a foliage background, and it can be planted at the rear of a bed to make it look more full and lush and to offset flowers planted in the front.
In cooking, orange mint makes a great addition to desserts and herbal tisanes. It can also be used in savory dishes, especially dishes from the Middle East and Southeast Asia, where citrus and mint are often paired. Fresh mint leaves can be used as a garnish, or orange mint can be ground into various dressings and sauces. It can also be used to make sorbet, pudding, and other desserts.
Generally, orange mint is at its best when it is used fresh, highlighting the subtle aroma and flavor. However, it can also be dried and stored, or frozen. If you dry orange mint, keep it in a sealed container in a cool, dry place out of the light, and try to use it within six months. If you freeze orange mint, you may want to freeze it in small batches which you can take out as needed.