If Calamint (Nipitella) were a Beatle, it’d be John, for sure. An inspiring leader in any dish, with new ideas that take classics, and transform them into something new, and wonderful.
The dried herb is priced like a rare LP, but when it’s the only game on a continent, if you don’t grow it, you owe it.
1 oz. / 28 g.
A herb in the mint family, calamint, which is grown, and consumed, all over the world, is very rarely offered commercially as a spice, in dried form.
The taste is mildly pungent, like spearmint, but much warmer. It has notes of orange, oregano, marjoram, and mint. The dried leaves are a lead spice, not a role player.
Fresh, the flowers are edible, delicate, and delightful, as a finishing flavor in salads, or as a garnish for egg dishes.
In Tuscany, whose cuisine takes advantage of the plentiful calamint growing wildly in cracks and crags everywhere, the local recipes use it more like oregano, in savory dishes. There’s a fair amount of it used in Sicilian cooking, as well.
Like oregano, its essential oils, especially its dominant e-oil, pulegone, work well because it permeates meats, and the fats in meats, very well. It also works with vegetables, legumes, and fungi that absorb fats, like mushrooms, beans, and artichokes.
Occasionally, fresh, it doubles for basil.
In North America, we find it under the Tuscan name, nipitella. You have three options:
Calamint can overpower other flavors. Use sparingly.
Native across Southern Europe, the Mediterranean, it has been transplanted all over the world. It grows in Eastern Europe, and some parts of the Americas. It flourishes in arid landscapes, and in wastelands.
Calamint has been used in Southern Europe since the early Roman civilization.
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