Mint: Love it or Hate it?
In my experience, people either love mint or hate it. I have witnessed
tirades on the subject of mint in the garden. However, I have found that
if you grow it in pots, either sunk in the ground or with your other
container plants, it is a wonderful addition to the garden.
By Brenda Hyde
Mint should be grown in sun or partial shade, and kept fairly moist.
It spreads by runners under the ground and also by seed if you let it
flower. The key here is containing the roots, and harvesting frequently
so it does not go to seed. There are many wonderful varieties of mint
such as apple, chocolate, pineapple plus the classic spearmint and
peppermint. They are interchangeable in recipes. It would be a shame to
shun mint because of it's unruly ways, especially when you can control
it with proper care.
To harvest mint, which should be done frequently, snip off leaves as
you need them, or harvest the entire plant by cutting stems about an
inch or so above the ground. It will grow back for several harvests. You
can hang the stems upside down and dry for tea, or freeze the leaves in
resealable bags to use as you would fresh. I've also had success with
drying in the oven. I strip the leaves and place them on baking sheets
that are covered with parchment paper. Fill the baking sheet, but keep
the mint in a single layer. Place the oven on the lowest setting and
check now and then. It took between 2-3 hours to dry, but this will
depend on your oven and the humidity. When dry, crumble and store in
Mint is not just for tea!
Mint is a great addition to beverages, but it is also a culinary herb.
The following recipes contain fresh mint, and will demonstrate how
versatile it is in cooking and beverages.
Add chopped mint to lamb, rice dishes, salads or fresh steamed
vegetables such as baby carrots. I made a wonderful sun tea in a one
quart jar with 2 black tea bags, and a handful of mint and lemon balm. I
left it several hours in the sun, then chilled it in the refrigerator.
It was so refreshing!
Also, try adding mint leaves to a simple chicken soup stock with
diced chicken and a little lemon juice. Stuff the cavity of a roast
chicken with several mint leaves and sliced of fresh lemon. Add mint to
a tuna and pasta salad, then top with a citrus dressing.
Minted Fruit Cup
1 honeydew melon
1 cup cubed watermelon or melon balls
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint-apple, orange mint or peppermint
Using a tiny scoop make melon balls out of the cantaloupe and
honeydew melon. Place the fruit into a large bowl and sprinkle the sugar
over it. Add the finely chopped mint-any combinations of mints will
work. Let the mixture chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
Serve in pretty glass bowls and garnish with a sprig of mint.
Mint and Citrus Cooler
12 cups fresh chilled orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 large bunch fresh mint
2 lemons thinly sliced
2 limes, thinly sliced
1 large orange, thinly sliced
Mix orange and lemon juice in a large pitcher. Add half the mint and
crush it with the back of a wooden spoon after you add to the juices.
Mix in fruit slices. Add ice and mix. Pour into glasses, garnishing with
remaining mint. 10 servings.
Cucumber Mint Salad
3 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 cup or 8 ounces plain yogurt
2 tablespoons whipping cream
Place cucumbers in colander and sprinkle with salt. Let rest 15
minutes. Rinse and drain on paper towels. Mix the remaining ingredients
together, add cucumbers and stir to coat. Season with pepper. Chill. Can
be prepared up to 5 hours ahead of time. Six servings.
Lima Bean, Ham and Mint Salad
2 cups frozen or canned lima beans
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons herb or wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
2 heads of endive, cut into strips
1 head romaine lettuce cut into strips
3 ounces smoked ham, cut into thin strips
10 large mint leaves, cut into think strips
Cook beans according to instructions. Drain. Toss with oil and season
with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until well chilled. Whisk vinegar and
mustard in a small bowl. Gradually add the oil while whisking. Season
with salt and pepper. Combine beans, greens and the other ingredients.
Add dressing and toss to coat. Serve immediately. Makes 2-3 servings.
Lamb Steaks with Horseradish Mint Sauce
1 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons chopped mint
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 lamb chops or leg steaks
Salt and pepper
Combine first three ingredients. Set aside. Preheat grill or broiler.
Combine mustard and garlic and rub on both sides of lamb. Season with
salt and pepper. Grill lamb to desired doneness, about 3-5 minutes on
each side for medium rare. Serve with sauces. Four servings.
White Beans with Ham
1 pound dry Great Northern Beans, or about 4 cans precooked
1 cup diced ham
1/2 cup fresh mint
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup wine vinegar
salt and pepper
Soak and cook dried beans according to directions and drain. Or open
and drain canned beans. Transfer to large bowl and cool slightly. Add
ham, mint, cilantro, oil and vinegar; toss gently. Season with salt and
pepper. Chill. Can be made one day ahead and refrigerated; then brought
to room temperature. Add more olive oil and vinegar if necessary.
Basil Mint Pesto
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine the mint, basil, garlic, cheese and nuts in a blender to mix.
With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil. Season to taste with
salt and freshly ground pepper and process to the desired consistency.
Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Old Fashioned Peppermint Milk Bath
You will need:
1/2 cup powdered milk
1 tablespoon dried peppermint leaves
Crush the mint with a spice or coffee grinder or a food processor.
Mix mint and milk together and transfer to a jar. Seal and tie a ribbon
around the neck of the jar with these instructions:
Peppermint Milk Bath: Keep in a cool dry place. To use, place a small
amount under running bath water. Soak and relax!
Calming Herb Tea
1 tsp. dried apple mint or pineapple mint leaves
1 tsp. dried lemon verbena or lemon balm leaves
Add these to a tea pot and add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of boiling water.
Steep for about 5 minutes, strain and add sugar or tea for a soothing
herbal tea. You can use any mint for this or a mixture.