Nepitella is a herb that grows wild in Italy, particularly in Tuscany and Umbria and may even be found growing amidst cobblestone pathways. This perennial, from the mint family, also goes by the name Lesser Calaminth, and is called mentuccia in Italy. Today the plant has spread and may be found growing in Southern Europe to Great Britain. The culinary herb is rare in Australia, but it is so easy to grow!
Nepitella attracts bees and is considered to be an ornamental shrub that does well in garden borders.
It has pale lavender flowers and a similar appearance to Calamint, but
with smaller leaves and a muskier oregano or savoury-like aroma. Nepitella grows into a small mound to about 30cm high, with soft, shiny green oregano like leaves.
Nepitella grows best in full sun to partial shade and seems to have tolerance to a wide range of growing conditions and soil types. It is a hardy plant and shows frost tolerance. When water is available Nepitella prefers free draining soils, but it does do well in dry conditions. It does well in pots.
Nepitella is considered a vital Tuscan herb and may be used to flavor anything savoury, including roast meats, mushrooms, pizzas, artichokes or even pasta dishes. Many cooks have said they never cook mushrooms without using this herb. However, it should be used sparingly as it may overpower some dishes. The leaves may be used fresh or dried, but dried is considered to be stronger.
Medicinal Uses: In medieval times
Nepitella was used for stomach problems and as a digestive aid, as a
soothing tea and as a treatment for insomnia.
This herb should be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women, in medicinal quantities.