Chocolate mint is a Mentha piperia cultivar that has a hint of a chocolatey taste, leading many people to compare it to peppermint patties. Like many mints, this plant is very easy to grow, and it will spread readily in the garden if it is given a free hand. Many garden suppliers carry it and other flavored mint cultivars, like orange or lemon mint, and it can also be grown from seeds or cuttings.
Like all mint plants, chocolate mint is characterized by a classically square stem and simple, lightly serrated leaves. Depending on the weather conditions where the mint is grown, the leaves may be a dark green to purple, often streaked with darker color. It has a strong minty aroma with a faint hint of chocolate, making it a very pleasant plant to have around the garden, even if the gardener doesn't eat it. This plant is also great for a bird or butterfly garden, since these creatures are very attracted to mint.
This plant has two stages of growth. In the early spring, it produces flowers, and in the summer, the plant starts to send out shoots and runners. If the mint is allowed to grow unchecked, it can become an unruly groundcover, and it has a slightly vine-like growth habit, so it can climb trees and shrubs. Many gardeners like to pinch off the heads to encourage a more bushy growth and to keep the plant under control.
There are a number of ways to use this plant in cooking. Many people like to use it in herbal tisanes, for example, and it can also be used as a garnish on salads, roasts, desserts, and many other dishes. Cooks can also use the leaves in desserts; it can be added to sorbets and cakes, for example. Chocolate mint can also make a very interesting star ingredient in mint sauce for Southeast Asian food, and it pairs well with spicy food.
In addition to being grown in the garden, chocolate mint can also do well indoors, as long as it has a sunny spot. The plant prefers moist, but not waterlogged, soil. If it is grown in a container, either indoors or outdoors, a gardener should pinch it back to keep the plant growing evenly. Gardeners do not need to use all of the mint while it is fresh, since it can be dried or frozen for later use.