In Season: Mint

August 2, 2009 by andrea | Filed under Handy Hints, In Season, Summer.

mint

Years ago, a friend gave me some mint that I planted in my front yard by a water faucet. After a season or two and the mint taking over that area, I decided to take it out of the ground and plant something else there. I was successful in removing all traces of the mint from the front yard, but apparently some roots inadvertently got mixed in with dirt in my backyard and now it’s gone crazy back there. When you read about mint being invasive, boy, they’re not kidding! 

I’m sure you’ve seen recipes that call for using mint. However, most recipes don’t specify what kind of mint to use. I can tell you from experience that not all mint is created equal. I’m pretty sure the mint in my yard is peppermint (which is the most potent and tastes best with sweet things) because when I used it in a savory recipe it tasted weird, too strong and totally out of place. After doing some research on mint, I found that the kind that is typically used in savory dishes (Mediterranean cooking, lamb dishes, salads, etc.) is spearmint. Now I am not a mint expert but I thought I would pass along a few things I learned:

Mint (Mentha)
– found on http://www.gardenguides.com/

The common types of mint are peppermint, pennyroyal, crinkle-leafed spearmint, spearmint, and applemint.
Never eat pennyroyal, as it is toxic.

Cultivation
Mint is a perennial herb that is propagated by root division or rooting cuttings in water. The plant is invasive and should be grown in pots or in lengths of plastic pipe buried in the ground. It enjoys a damp location, shaded from strong afternoon sun, and rich soil. Pennyroyal is an attractive addition to hanging baskets. Mint planted outdoors should be mulched heavily to protect against frost.

Culinary Uses
•Spearmint and crinkle-leafed spearmint are best for sauces. You can cook a few sprigs with peas and new potatoes to enhance the flavor.
•Spearmint, peppermint and applemint sprigs can be added to drinks and fruit dishes as a garnish. It also makes a refreshing tea.
•Peppermint makes an excellent flavoring for ice cream, chocolates, and other deserts.

Growing and Cooking with Mint
Peppermint is the mint of choice for medicinal purposes. It’s many uses include the following:
•The menthol in peppermint soothes the lining of the digestive tract an stimulates the production of bile, which is an essential digestive fluid. A hot cup of herbal tea is an excellent way to settle your stomach after a big meal.
•There is a very good reason that peppermint is the flavoring of choice for toothpaste. Peppermint is an excellent breath freshener. When using peppermint tea as a breath freshener, increase the effectiveness by adding a pinch of anise, caraway or cinnamon.
•Peppermint is reputed to have the calming, sedative effect.
•Menthol vapors are famous for relieving nasal, sinus and chest congestion. Remember those minty-smelling ointments your mother rubbed on your chest when you were a child with a cold? You can also get relief with a steaming cup of peppermint tea. To make peppermint tea, use 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried peppermint leaves per cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes.

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2 Responses to “In Season: Mint”

  1. ButterYum says:

    Great info. I’m so glad I planted my spearmint in a container. It’s absolutely taking over the planter box!

  2. gaga says:

    Thanks for the info. I have both spear adn peppermint and am always looking for more uses for them!