• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Smithy

Iraqi herb "butnig" - what is it?

16 posts in this topic

I recently purchased a package of an Iraqi herb that they call "butnig".  The store clerks couldn't think of the English name for the herb, or whether there was one.  Finally one of them opened the container to let me smell it.  It has a cool smell, slightly reminiscent of eucalyptus but without the camphor note. It smells most like mint, but not at all like spearmint, peppermint or any of the other cultivated mints with which I'm familiar. 

 

I said, "it smells a little like mint.  Na' na?"

 

"Yes!" cried the clerk, "Mint!  Except not quite."

 

I left, befuddled, with my package.  

 

20170405_145626.jpg

 

This blog post describes butnig as "Iraqi dried wild mint".  So far that's all I can find.  Can someone please tell me more about this herb?  Is it a single herb, or is it a mixture like zaatar? Is it really a variety of mint?  Is it foraged or cultivated? Is it known by other names?  If so, what are they?

 

Inquiring minds would like to know. 

1 person likes this

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, Smithy said:

Inquiring minds would like to know. 

 

I have an inquiring mind too, so when you mentioned this the other day, I Googled and Googled, but could come up with nothing more than what you did:  dried wild mint, so I didn't post anything. I will ask at the Mediterranean Store, next time I'm there. I think the owner is from Iraq. Maybe @shain could provide some insight? Mysteries intrigue me. I mean I have even looked incessantly for a translation, finally reverting to the obscure search engine Lycos, which I am convinced has better underlying technology than the others. Nothing. A native speaker could spot a misspelling in the handwritten label that we'd miss. I did try the spelling butniq. Still nothing.

 

I would be interested, and probably, so would @Smithy, to know @liuzhou's experience and knowledge of this herb. He posted while I was typing and madly searching again, hoping for a more definitive answer. :)

1 person likes this

> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, Thanks for the Crepes said:

I would be interested, and probably, so would @Smithy, to know @liuzhou's experience and knowledge of this herb.

 

I've bought it in London in the past after first coming cross it in Iraq many years ago. I've always seen it described as wild mint, although precisely which subspecies, I wouldn't know.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

I've bought it in London in the past after first coming cross it in Iraq many years ago. I've always seen it described as wild mint, although precisely which subspecies, I wouldn't know.

 

How is it used? How did you use your purchase from London?


> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, Thanks for the Crepes said:

 

How is it used? How did you use your purchase from London?


Much as I would use any other mint - usually with lamb. As I recall, that is also how I saw it used in Iraq.  It was, I am sure, used along with cumin in a rub for roast lamb or lamb kebabs. It was 40 years ago that I was in Iraq. And 20 since I left London. Haven't seen it since.

 

P.S. I've also used it in salads.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

It seems it may be Mentha longifolia L.

 

Quote

Mentha longifolia L. (common name: wild mint or horse mint) member of the large mint family Lamiaceae, is a fast-growing, perennial herb which can reach up to 1.5 m high in favourable conditions. M. longifolia is an extremely variable species with a widespread distribution in Iraq, Mediterranean region, Europe and eastwards into Asia.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2707363/

 

It is also sometimes transliterated as "butnuj".


Edited by liuzhou (log)
3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

In Israel, people of Iraqi origin will usually use butnaj/butnuj to refer to Micromeria fruticosa (Zota Levvana in Hebrew). However, I will not be surprised if in Iraq it refers to a different plant. 

It is used to flavor cooked fava beans, kebabs (mint is more common now, but I believe it was the original spice in Iraqi kebabs). It is often paired with cumin. Like mint, it makes tasty tea, especially with strong black tea. 


Edited by shain (log)
2 people like this

~ Shai N.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for that information, folks.  The clerk did describe adding it to fava beans.  I have some lamb.  I have cumin.  Kebabs of some sort are on the schedule!

2 people like this

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll just make it clear that the fava mentioned is the dried kind (as in a ful medames), completed with lemon juice and olive oil. Although I'm sure it will be delicious with the green kind as well. 

2 people like this

~ Shai N.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

 I buy dried mint from an Indian grocery and consider it a very different ingredient from the dried mint I can buy in the Western grocery.  I don't know if it is wild mint  or just another variation.  I like it but only in Indian preparations.


Edited by Anna N +++typos. (log)
2 people like this

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Doesn't sound half as good as "Woolly Hedgenettle" ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, Nicolai said:

Butnig is indeed iraqi dried wild mint.

The English name is Stachys.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stachys_byzantina

 

I would not use such herb dried or fresh. It does not cut it for me.

 

I have Stachys byzantina (aka lamb's ear) growing in my garden and I've never thought to eat it either.  

Now the Micromeria fruticose and Mentha longifolia mentioned earlier in the thread sound like they could be pleasant herbs to cook with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.