A.K.A Egyptian Mint, Mojito mint.
It’s much more fun to think that the civilisations that proceeded us were nothing like us, that they worshiped sun gods, lived in caves or, thought the world was flat. The truth might be a little more boring. Take the ancient Egyptians for example, we love to think they worshiped cats. Fifty centuries of time only seem to add to this myth. But if you just pause and imagine if somehow Youtube could be unearthed in a few thousand years time. Perhaps future generations would see Grumpy cat, Simons Cat or my favourite Hamilton the Hipster cat the cat that looks like he has a little white moustache and think that we worship cats too. My guess is the Egyptians just found cats amusing and that hieroglyphics with cats on are possibly just the Egyptian version of the internet.
Something the Ancient Egyptians also did was to allow their pharaohs to pay taxes using apple mint, also known as Egyptian mint. I’ve grown apple mint in the back garden and from one tiny cutting it took over a small patch of earth with roots jumping out ready to colonise the rest of the garden like some crazed 1930’s German. It strikes me that paying taxes in invasive herbs is akin to letting some of the biggest companies off from paying corporation tax. So it would seem that a love of cats and corruption makes those Egyptians very similar to our civilisation.
It has to be said that apple mint is a valuable herb. It has been used throughout antiquity to treat a variety of common illnesses including sore throats, stomach aches and bee stings. Although the chain-smoking father of free healthcare, Culpepper, suggested that you should never give mint to a wounded man as the wound would never heal!
It is thought that the Roman’s marched here with mint in hand, along with a whole host of other herbs. It is little facts such as this that makes me often wonder how the wild plants that I’m picking ended up at my feet. Was it native, did it blow here, or was the patch I’m picking from once an ancient herb garden? Often foraging can be the first step to unearthing our past. Armed with some knowledge of the history of a plant you can start to join the dots. Indeed, I’ve seen apple mint growing in spots from here (in Bristol) across France and all the way to Italy. Pretty much following the route of Roman occupation. Perhaps when you find some growing in a crack in a pavement, or in the undergrowth at the edge of a woodland, you too will think of a centurion marching along with a bag full of seeds or a clutching a tiny sprig of mint.