MINT AND ITS USES
Even though we tend to think of mint as spearmint or peppermint, there are actually over 600 varities mint in the world. This is one plant that grows like a weed and if it is in your yard, you will never get rid of it. For this reason, many gardeners, never actually plant mint in their gardens. Instead they plant them in boxes where they will be contained. If you do have mint growing, be happy, because there are so many uses for it that you will be glad that you have it. The mint that I have right now that is often a pain, is spearmint which creeps under the fence from my neighbor’s yard and keeps surrounding my tomato plants. Not good for the tomatoes unless I keep it pulled out, which I do. The reason that you can’t get rid of mint, even when you pull it out is that the plant puts down deep roots and even when you think you have pulled it all out, there is still enough left in there for it to grow again. Just like the mythical phoenix bird, mint keeps coming back and rejuvenating itself.
The two main types of mint are Peppermint and Spearmint. Spearmint is the preferred mint for using fresh as the Peppermint Variety has a high menthol content and tends to taste medicinal when not dried before use. There are many varieties within the Spearmint category which can be used freely for cold drinks or hot tea. My favorite is Chocolate Mint. One of the nice things about Chocolate Mint is that it does not grow as rapidly as the other varities and when you water it gives off a delicious Chocolate Mint fragrance which smells just like an old fashioned Chocolate Mint Patty, something I used to love when a child. In fact, I still do. A few of the other varities of mint which are available are Lemon Mint, Banana Mint, Lavender Mint, Orange Mint and Pineapple Mint. If you do find yourself fighting the mint battle, just take advantage of its presence and use it whenever youcan. Following are some of the things that I do with Mint and that you can do too, if you like.
I just pulled out a large quantity of mint that was surrounding my tomato plants. I pulled the mint out, roots and all but like I mentioned earlier, there will probably still be roots left in the ground and I will find myself pulling the mint out again in a few weeks. Since the mint roots where still attached, there was some dirt clinging to the plants. I first rinsed them off with the hose before taking them in the house. Once in the kitchen I filled the sink up with cold water and plop in the mint stems and swish them around to get rid of any loose dirt, bugs or other debris. Then I pull the leaves off the stems and put them in a colander. The easiest way to remove the leaves from the stems, is to run your fingers down the stem in the opposite direction of growth. When you do this, the leaves come off easily. Once you have the leaves off and in the colander, then run cold water over them, shaking the colander well to distribute the water and get rid of the unwanted material.
Once your mint is clean, you can then use it for a variety of things. I find that the best way is to make a mint infusion. The infusion can be used for making tea or jelly or can be stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. The infusion itself can be use for mint tea (no tea leaves needed). Not only is mint tea refreshing, it is also a great digestive aid. You can also make mint lemon or limeade or use it for cooking. One of the advantages of making the infusion is that when it is simmering it gives off a wonderful fragrance that will permeate your home and act as a natural air freshener.
To make an infusion, place the mint leaves in a pot where they will have ample room and then cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil, turn down the flame and simmer for about 10 minutes, then shut off the heat, cover the pot and let it sit until the infusion is cool. Pour the infusion through a strainer into a clean container and discard the leaves. Again, the infusion can be used for tea either hot or cold. For iced tea, place some ice cubes in a pitcher, pour the infusion over it and then serve. For added flavor, add lemon or lime juice or orange, lemon and lime slices. The infusion can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two or can be frozen until you are ready to use it.
To make mint jelly, recipes can be found on line just by typing in ‘Recipes for Mint Jelly’ into your browser search area. Mint leaves can also be used to cook lamb and can be used in salads. Remember that if you have mint growing in your yard, don’t let it go to waste. Use it and don’t be afraid to pick it. It will grow back!