Catmint

Catmint, Nepeta sp

There is a lot of confusion between ‘catmint’ and ‘catnip’. The two plants look so much alike that it is difficult to tell one from the other, unless you have a good labeling system! According to Wikipedia, they are the same. Common practice, though, is to call Nepeta Cataria ‘catnip’ and the hybrid, Nepeta x faasenii, ‘catmint’.

N. Cataria is attractive to cats. Nepeta x faasenii has a much more pleasant scent but little to no effect on cats.

The root is perennial. The plant will grow to 1-5 feet tall and 1-3 feet wide. Catmint is generally more attractive in the garden than the true catnip.

The scent falls somewhere between mint and pennyroyal.

In France, catmint is used as a seasoning and is grown right along with the other culinary herbs. It is said that the peasants in England brewed catmint tea as a beverage. However, once China tea became cheaply available, most switched. The catmint tea was a good deal more wholesome, though.

Chewing the root of catmint is said to make even the meekest person aggressive and quarrelsome.

Catmint is easily grown and doesn’t require as much water as other plants in the mint family.

Catmint is pretty as a border plant, especially when grown with Hyssop. The soft colors blend nicely. And catmint is good in a rock garden.

Good for containers and the perennial garden. Soft, crinkled, gray-green leaves on a compact, mounding plant, catmint attracts bees and butterflies. The edible flowers are very small, but have a strong flavor and aroma. Use as a flavorful garnish in any savory dish or dessert. Flavor is minty, spicy, and refreshing.

The leaves are used for tea, and are said to induce sweating. This makes it useful in bringing down a fever. It also helps you fall asleep, another helpful thing when you have a nasty cold. Never boil the leaves, though. That spoils it and makes it useless. Always “infuse” the herb. In other words, pour boiling water over the leaves and let it steep.