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Mint :: Herb of the Month + Mint Granita Recipe

Posted Jun 12 2009 4:26pm

Mint

[Mentha]

The other day I hand-picked two big bunches of mint leaves that I purchased from the farmer’s market. I used most of the leave to make Mint Granite [see recipe below]. While I was busy picking the mint leaves and enjoying the wonderful minty aroma that perfumed the dining room, I was also busy thinking about the different varieties of mint wondering if one variety is better than the another for making tea or in recipes. My search for the answer lead me to discover an amazing number of mint plants that I had never heard of, hybrid plants with incredible flavors and fragrances.

Mint Varieties

Hold on to your garden gloves. The variety of mint is incredible! I was really amazed how many are available. Among the various varieties, mint offers a multitude of uses. Some mint is mild in flavor, and others are stronger, and not are well-suited for culinary use, and for this reason I list here what works well in the kitchen and what works best for drinks and to make tea.

Peppermint, spearmint, and pennyroyal are close relatives in the mint family. Spearmint and peppermint have several varieties within their group [Spearmint, English mint, and Vietnamese Mint; Peppermint, Chocolate Mint, Swiss Mint]. Others varieties within the mint family that I am familiar with are Water Mint and Pineapple Mint. Still there are many more captivating varieties waiting to be discovered and tasted.

Wonderful in recipes and as garnish: Banana Mint, Corsican Mint, Curly Mint, Ginger Mint, Grapefruit Mint, Berries and Cream Mint, Candied Fruit Mint, Candy Lime Mint, Citrus Kitchen Mint, Cotton Candy Mint, Jim’s Fruit Mint, Fruit Sensations Mint, Fruitasia Mint, Italian Spice Mint, Julia’s Sweet Citrus Mint, Marilyn’s Salad Mint, Oregano-Thyme Mint, and Sweet Pear Mint.

This isn’t a complete list, but I think this long list will keep all of us intrigued for now, and inspired to create new sensational recipes with these fun flavors.

Great for making tea and drinks: Apple Mint, Julia’s Sweet Citrus Mint, Korean Mint, Margarita Mint, Menthol Mint, Mojito Mint, Orange Mint [aka Eau de Cologne Mint and Bergamot Mint], and Wintergreen Mint.

Mint in the Garden

Doesn’t the extensive variety of mint make you want to try them all? I’m sure inspired. I would love to plant each type but have visions of an invasive take over of the entire neighborhood.

“Plant a little mint, Madame, then step out of the way so you don’t get hurt!” - British gardener

My mother, sisters, and I remember the time I decided to plant mint in the backyard. This perennial plant grows easy and flourishes in most conditions [though it prefers moist soil], and I thought it would make a great addition to our garden. I had no idea, at that time, how mint could take over a garden. The mint grow with ease and was left unattended. When exactly it happened I’m not sure but one day we went to the backyard to find this tenacious herb had nearly taken over the garden! It was everywhere and that wasn’t necessary a bad thing. We shared plenty of mint with our neighbor, family, and friends.

Mint grows well indoors and outdoors. You can grow mint right in your kitchen. If you plan to grow it outdoors, planting mint in containers is advised if you don’t want it to take over, and even when it’s planted directly into the ground it is a good idea to use some sort of restrainer system to restrain their roots. Once mint is established it is very difficult to keep it from spreading if the root system hasn’t been restrained.

If growing your own mint isn’t an option, your local farmer’s markets, and the produce section of health food and grocery stores will mostly likely carry it.

Nutritional Profile

Mint is a powerful antioxidant containing many vitamins and minerals, and easy to integrate into your daily diet. Fresh mint leaves contain:

Calcium | Copper | Fluoride | Folic Acid | Iron | Manganese | Phosphorus | Potassium | Selenium | Vitamin A | Vitamin C | Vitamin B1 [Thiamin] | Vitamin B2 [Riboflavin] | Vitamin B5 [Pantothenic Acid | Vitamin B12 [Cobalamins] | Vitamin C | Zinc

Selecting

Fresh Mint

Vibrant green mint leaves are what you want with leaves that are free from dark spots or yellowing.

Dried Mint

Look for dried mint of superior quality and freshness that is organic, non-irradiated and purchased from a reputable source.

Storing Mint

Sometimes I store fresh herbs in the refrigerator, but lately I’ve been placing some herbs, like fresh mint, in a glass of water that acts as a vase, and placing it in an area away from harsh sunlight, and from my experience it has remained fresher longer. Change the water daily.

If you prefer storing fresh mint leaves in the refrigerator, it should keep for several days if wrapped in a damp paper towel and place inside of a bag or container.

Keep dried mint in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. It should keep fresh up to a year.

Dry Your Own Mint

Have extra fresh mint you’d like to dry? Just lay it out in the sun or use a dehydrator to do the job. Once completely dry, store in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark, and dry place [see Storing Mint].

Culinary Uses and Tips

All the different varieties listed above give clues to what flavors compliment mint. Mint does go well with fruits of all sorts. In the world of vegetables, mint tastes great combined with peas, cucumbers, carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, corn, green beans, sprouted legumes, zucchini, and many more veggies.

Chopped mint leaves are great in salads, fruit desserts, and beverages. It adds delicious flavor to sauces [like chocolate sauce], curries, cold and warm soups, beverages, and as garnish.

Some herbs and spices that work well with mint: basil, garlic, ginger, lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme, and marjoram.

Substitutes for mint in recipes: For savory recipes use fresh parsley or basil. For sweet or savory recipes use fresh basil.

Mint Granita

This recipe for Mint Granita is adapted from Epicurious website.

Mint Granita

The cool burst of minty flavor makes this recipe a great palette cleanser between courses or serve it as a refreshing dessert or treat.

1 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
2 cups water
1/4 cup agave, or more to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve, twice. Pour the mint water into a shallow container and freeze. Every half hour or so, stir and crush any lumps. Repeat until evenly frozen, approximately 3-4 hours.

When ready to serve scrape the frozen mixture with a fork to fluff and loose into tiny ice granuales. Spoon into glasses or bowls and serving immediately.

Serves 4

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Herb of the Month Giveaway

Each month we feature an herb, highlight its benefits, showcase it in a raw vegan recipe, and offer a monthly giveaway of an assortment of products featuring the herb of the month courtesy of our wonderful sponsor Mountain Rose Herbs.

At the end of this month June, a name will be drawn from the comment section of this post, and Mountain Rose Herbs will send an awesome assortment of products featuring Mint to the winning participant.

Thank you in advance for your participation and good luck!

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