This is only an excerpt of the full article that appeared in P&F Magazine. The full content is not currently available online.
The average person probably wouldn’t know it, but there is an abundance of flavor and fragrance history tucked between South Bend and Crumstown, IN, at Shady Lane Farms, now run by third-generation mint farmer Randy Matthys.
“My grandfather bought this farm in the 1930s,” says Matthys, “and there was already an old mint still on the property, so who knows when mint growing started on this piece of land.” In fact, Matthys is in the same general area where mint farming took root in the late 1840s, mainly in the Southern Michigan mucklands (and in fact today you still hear the term “muck farm”) and in Northern Indiana, primarily St. Joseph County. These lands are particularly apt for mint farming, the muck being the end result of plant deposition in standing water in the post-glacial period.
Many American peppermint plants trace their heritage to 18th C. England—specifically, Mitcham in County Surrey (which is also why many of the fields are full of what is called “Mitcham” or “Black Mitcham” peppermint). Peppermint’s long and little-changed pedigree is one of the two things Matthys doesn’t like about the mint business: “Look at that field and you’ll see a plant that hasn’t changed much in thousands of years. And if you look at the corn behind it, how many thousands of different hybrids and versions are there? It seems like we haven’t put a lot of scientific work into getting the best mint crop possible.”