Although Pliny writes about peppermint adorning heads and tables during feasts in Ancient Greece and Rome, this might not have been the herb we know as peppermint. The ancients used it for food and to flavour wine, and it is thought that the ancient Egyptians may have cultivated. It is a member of the mint family or Labiatae or Lamiaceae family and is in fact a cross between Mentha aquatica (water mint) and Mentha spicata (garden mint). It was first recognized as a separate species in Britain in 1676, but its medicinal qualities were soon made known and it got into the London Pharmacopoeia in 1721. There are in fact two types of this mint, Mentha vulgaris or black peppermint and Mentha officinalis, white mint. It is certainly native to Britain and also to other parts of the world as this hybrid is the result of natural cross breeding.
   It was used as a strewing herb because it is loathsome to rats and mice and repels insects, making it useful in times when hygiene was not as it is in most countries now. It is used to make medicine more palatable for children and in oral hygiene product such as mouth wash. It is also found in chest rubs, as the essential oil of peppermint contains menthol. It is used both in the pharmaceutical industry and the food industry and also in the perfume industry. The essential oil found in the leaves has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
  An ointment made from peppermint cools and soothes irritated skin, and the herb is useful in cases of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Peppermint tea can be made from the chopped herb wither dry or fresh and this relieves flatulence and colic and aids digestion. It is a good tisane to use if you have eaten a lot, especially after over-indulging in a Thanksgiving meal or any other of our traditional winter festivals. Peppermint widens the blood vessels and so reduces blood pressure, and the tea was once used for heart palpitations and for hysteria and nervous problems.
  The leaves contain vitamins A and C as well as vitamin B 2, riboflavin, and also the minerals iron, copper, potassium, calcium and magnesium, along with folate and dietary fibre.
  The tisane can help promote sweating and warm the body, and is said to get rid of colds within two days. For the tisane you need an ounce of the dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water leaves it to steep for 15 minutes and to this you can add both milk and sugar or honey as you would in black tea. Equal amounts of peppermint, yarrow and elder flowers can also be made into a tea for digestive purposes, while for nervous disorders, peppermint and wood betony can be mixed in equal amounts. For insomnia a traditional remedy, to drink just before going to bed is 1 oz of finely chopped peppermint, ½ an ounce or rue and ½ an ounce of wood betony. Pour boiling water over a heaped tablespoon of these herbs in a cup and leaves for 20 mins, then strain and drink warm.
  However I love the taste of peppermint chocolate truffles and here is one of my favourite winter recipes. They are good to finish off a celebratory meal.

1 cup roughly chopped peppermint leaves
1 cup double cream
14 oz dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
2 lbs white chocolate, broken into small pieces

You don’t need the white chocolate until the day after you have made the dark chocolate and peppermint filling.
Start with the cream and mint leaves, and combine them in a saucepan and bring the cream to just below simmering point.
Turn off the heat and leaves for 30 minutes so that the mint is infused into the cream. Strain the cream and squeeze all of it off the mint leaves before discarding them.
Gently reheat the cream to just below a simmer and strain this onto the chopped dark chocolate which you have put into a heat-proof bowl. Allow to settle for 1 or 2 minutes then gently stir so that the cream melts the chocolate. If this doesn’t happen completely, put the bowl over a pan of just simmering water and stir until all the chocolate lumps have melted.
Pour the filling into a small bowl and when cool cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, the mixture will be firm, Melt the white chocolate gently and with a melon baller scoop out the mint and dark chocolate filling.
Make the filling round by rubbing it between your palms and using a thin skewer or fork dip the ball in the melted white chocolate and place on a tray covered with grease-proof paper or parchment paper for cooking. Do this until the filling is used up and refrigerate until the chocolate has set.
Put the truffles in an airtight container and store in the fridge until needed.
These have Taste and really are a Treat.

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