Mint was used for medicinal properties, and later in gum and toothpastes. The plants were grown in the black dirt of the "muck lands" and cut like hay. It was swept into rows until it was wilted, then it was steamed. The mint-impregnated steam was condensed to collect the peppermint oil.
Weeds mixed into the mint harvest accounted for an inferior purity, and some farmers were thought to dilute their oil to make a better profit. Proof of superior purifying processes produced labels like this one:
My favorite mint memories: Grandma Emma's garden mint tea, and driving through St. Joe County, IN in the summer with the windows down when the mint is in bloom. Making garden mint tea is a tradition in our family. The next time my mother makes me a cup, I will wonder how many centuries the species spanned. I will wonder what mint farmers carried the precious plants along with them to the new world. The next time you brush your teeth, or bite into a stick of Wrigley's gum, remember where it came from.
Do you have mint memories?