Excerpts from Chuck Lyons
The H.G. Hotchkiss International Prize Medal Essential Oil Company has been processing and bottling peppermint oil at the same location—on the edge of the Erie Canal in Lyons, Wayne County—since 1839.
At one time, company founder, H.G. Hotchkiss, was called the “Peppermint King,” his great-granddaughter Anne says. The company he founded in this Upstate New York village was, at one time, responsible for about one half of the annual production of peppermint oil in the United States. The herb was grown extensively in fields around Lyons, and the canallers claimed that they could tell when they were approaching the village by the smell of peppermint in the air.
“Used to be you could tell when you were approaching Lyons by the smell of peppermint in the air. The peppermint’s still there; it’s just not as prominent as it once was.”
Lyons, with a population today of about four thousand people, was then, “virtually the peppermint capital of America,” says Anne Hotchkiss.
Today, the company’s essential peppermint oil is used almost exclusively as a flavoring for candy, liqueurs, pharmaceutical products and dental supplies. An old Hotchkiss slogan claims that, “a single twenty-one-ounce bottle of the company’s oil will flavor a ton of candy.”
“But there are still a few people,” Anne Hotchkiss says, “who use peppermint oil as a home remedy…. They say they couldn’t get through the winter without it.”
The essential oil is distilled from the harvested herb with the initial distillation done near the harvesting site. (The herb must be distilled within three days of being picked.) The oil is then shipped to Lyons, where it is further purified and bottled. As a rule of thumb, one acre of peppermint will produce fifty pounds of oil.
Peppermint is one of the oldest and best-tasting home remedies for indigestion. Studies show that peppermint lessens the amount of time food spends in the stomach by stimulating the gastric lining. It also relaxes the stomach muscles and promotes burping.
Peppermint is excellent for heartburn and stomachache. It is also good for nausea and vomiting. Migraine headaches, which are frequently accompanied by nausea, are often relieved by pepper- mint. This herb has a calming effect on the body and can help sooth a nagging cough.
Since peppermint goes part and parcel with Lyons, why not use it as a Peppermint Cottage landmark? You can’t miss our electric candy cane on the corner of Jackson School & Pleasant Valley Roads