There are many varieties of mint, which are used medicinally, aromatically, industrially, in beverages and, of course, are an important flavouring in numerous cuisines. Most sources say there are at least thirty varieties, with some of the best known being English mint, spearmint, peppermint, apple mint, pennyroyal and Vietnamese, which is not a true mint.
Mint takes its name from the nymph Menthe, who was turned into a plant by the goddess Perserpina when she found out that Pluto was in love with her.
Mint has long been seen as a symbol of hospitality and the Greeks used to clean their banqueting tables and dinner plates with it and today, in the Middle East mint tea is still offered to guests.
The Romans included mint in sauces, used it to aid digestion and as a breath fresher, while the Greeks added it to their baths to stimulate their bodies.
Medically mint is shown to improve digestion, soothe cramping and to ease tension headaches and tired nerves. With menthol, as a component, it also helps treat sore throats and colds and is effective in a variety of ways for treating respiratory tract diseases. Another medical use is in oral care where because of the tannins it contains, it helps prevent odour-causing bacteria which in turn helps prevent tooth cavities.
Availability: At The Chef’s Garden @ Epicurean mint is most plentiful from spring to autumn.
Goes with: carrots; coriander; courgettes; cucumber; garlic; gin; lamb; lemons; limes; melons; peas; potatoes; tea; tomatoes; and yogurt
SELECTION, STORAGE, PREPARATION & USING
Selection: The leaves should look vibrant and fresh, with no dark spots, yellowing or wilting,
Storage: As with other fresh herbs, place stems in a glass of water, cover with a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Change the water at least every two days.
Preparation: Wash and dry just before using. Strip leaves from the stem before preparing as directed in the recipe.
Using: Small whole leaves are an attractive garnish. Mint can be julienned, chopped or torn to use in dishes to give a fresh lift or as a garnish.
- Classic Mint Sauce for Lamb: Strip the leaves from the stems of a large handful of fresh English mint. Very finely chop leaves and place in a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 tablespoon water and mix to dissolve sugar. Stir in ¼ cup apple cider vinegar – adjust vinegar to taste, if necessary.
- Fresh Mint Tea: For a refreshing tea, place 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves in a cup and pour over boiling water. Cover cup with a sauce and leave for 3-4 minutes to infuse. Remove saucer, cool and strain before drinking.
Recipes Using Mint