Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Herb Week Day 3: Mint

Apple mint, orange mint, chocolate mint - mint has come a long way! If you're a fan of growing your own tea herbs, this is not news to you. What was news to me is that herbal tea is not really tea, it's a tisane (herbal infusion). Tea is made only from the tea bush (Camellia sinensis). But that's all semantics, we all call our herbal tea tea.

But back to the main point - there are so many wonderful varieties of mint, and they are all easy to grow, harvest, and enjoy.

Growing Mint
Mint will easily grow just about anywhere, and if you let it, it will! That's why you should always contain your mint plants either in a pot or in a raised bed where it can't escape. I grow apple mint and spearmint in the potager in a raised bed, and one plant in a pot. Three plants is enough to keep me busy harvesting, as I don't want my whole herb garden to be taken over. The lovely thing about this plant is that it is a perennial; buy it once and you'll have it all your life. Grow your mint in full sun or part shade in a well-draining bed or container.
Apple mint

Harvesting Mint
Mint should be harvested just before flowering, which for me in zone 5, was last week. It's said that that's when the oils in the leaves are at their greatest concentration. It should also be cut in the morning after any dew has dried. Later in the day, some of the oil has evaporated out of the leaves resulting in a weaker oil concentration.

Enjoying Mint
To be honest, I really don't like the taste of mint in anything but tea and other drinks. But if you do, there are so many culinary uses for this herb. It can be used fresh in drinks, desserts, and jelly, or dried for later use in tea. Like many herbs, it can be hung upside-down in a paper bag to dry, which should take about a week. After that, store it in an airtight jar to maintain the flavor. I tried drying it using the oven method (heat the oven to 175 or so for 20 minutes, turn it off and put in a cookie sheet of leaves) but after doing it twice, the leaves still weren't dry. Air drying using the paper bag method always works best for me and results in the strongest flavors.

Try this recipe that I found on Pinterest: A very refreshing daily cold infusion combining 2 liters of water, a sliced medium cucumber, a sliced lemon and 10-12 mint leaves. Let it steep overnight in the fridge. It's supposed to be good for detoxing and clear skin. And it actually tastes good! I could not find the original link, but you can see this recipe on my Nourish board on Pinterest.

For tea, you'll need a tea ball infuser, into which you place the dried leaves, then the infuser into your cup or kettle of hot water. Then you put your feet up, grab a book, and just relax and know that your tea is completely organic and homegrown!

There are SO many mint recipes out there. Here's a good list of recipes that might inspire you to grow your own mint!

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