I have a love and hate relationship with mint. It’s one of the most useful herbs to grow, but its ability to take over a garden can be exasperating. I’m tempted to plant it in a remote corner of the yard or grow the mint in a pot, however we use mint at my house for a myriad of things and I’d hate to run out. So it is growing right next to our back door, and if I keep harvesting, it doesn’t get out of hand.
My love of mint began in childhood when I’d find a patch of wild mint and pluck a few leaves to chew. Our family would drink plenty of ice tea in the summer and we’d brew the tea very strong, and then pour it over ice. Lemon and sugar were usually added. Mint leaves made the iced tea special.
These days I add fresh mint to my glass of iced seltzer water or plain water along with a thin slice of lime. The mint brightens the taste.
Mint is a crucial ingredient in several alcoholic drinks, the Mojito and the Mint Julip, but why stop there? Add a few berries into the mix and all kinds of delicious drinks, alcoholic and nonalcoholic, can be created with the use of a muddler( a small baton that works like a pestle to release flavor) to create your own signature beverage.
To make your own homegrown mint tea, thought to be good for digestion, cut bunches of mint to hang upside down away from direct sunlight to dry. You may want to protect the herb from dust with a paper bag, as the process can take a few days or as long as two weeks. You’ll know the mint is ready when the leaves are dry and crumbly. Store in an air tight container in a dark cool area. You can use the dried mint directly in cooking. For tea, you’ll need to use a tea ball or strainer.
From mint pesto to mint sauce, mint has an affinity for lamb and peas. Try adding some finely chopped mint leaves and butter to peas for a treat. Mint also bonds well with brocoli.
An easy recipe, for homemade mint sauce uses hot water to release the flavor of the mint. You’ll need:
a large bunch of fresh mint
5 Tbsp of boiling water
3 Tbsp of white wine vinegar
1 ½ Tbsp of sugar.
Chop up the mint leaves and place them in a bowl and sprinkle the sugar on top. Then pour in the hot water. Let it cool and then add the vinegar. Adjust the flavor to your taste, adding more mint or water. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, but if you are serving leg of lamb it will disappear quickly.
Another easy way to use fresh mint leaves is to toss them in with boiled new potatoes. Try this recipe.
New potatoes ( a little over a pound in weight total) washed and scrubbed
1 medium size red onion finely chopped
Shredded leaves from one bunch of mint
2 Tbsp of capers
3 Tbsp. of olive oil ( extra virgin)
2 Tbsp of red wine vinegar
½ Tsp. of sugar
Combine the onion, mint, capers, oil, vinegar, and sugar in your serving bowl. Boil the little potatoes until done, when they can be easily pierced with a knife (about 10 minutes). Drain the potatoes and pour them into the bowl and toss gently until they are coated with the other ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.
I’ve been focusing on food and beverages, but last but not least are flower arrangements. I like fresh flowers, and whether I clip a few blossoms from the yard or purchase some mums or daisies at the store, I’ve been adding sprigs of mint. The mint adds additional green foliage and a fresh scent that brightens the room.
So now that I’ve shared some of the many uses of mint, I’ll dash out the door to pick some more. Have a good week. Follow me on twitter at SN Maril and read my most recently published short story “The “C” Word” in the online journal Medicine and Meaning here.