There is no better time than spring to freshen up with mint.
Also known as menthe, mint is considered a super plant because it supports a healthy digestive system; by activating the salivary glands, it helps the body to begin digestion as soon as food hits the mouth. No matter how good for you, fresh mint is more than beneficial to your health; it is also a simple way to enliven your favourite sweet and savoury recipes. In the spirit of springtime, try growing and harvesting your own mint at home, and dedicate yourself to trying new ways of incorporating mint into your daily life.
Varieties of Mint
• Spearmint is most commonly used in cooking.
• Peppermint is stronger than spearmint and is often used in tea and desserts.
• Apple mint smells like Granny Smith apples and is used to make tea, as a garnish or as an addition to salads.
• Pineapple mint has crinkled leaves and can be used ornamentally in the garden.
• Orange mint has citrus-flavoured leaves and can be used as a garnish or in salsas and salads.
• Chocolate mint is strong like peppermint with a chocolate overtone, perfect for use in desserts.
Tips for Growing and Cultivating your own Mint
• Use cuttings from a healthy mint plant instead of planting seeds. Mint seeds are quite unreliable and cannot be guaranteed to grow.
• Cuttings should be planted deep in the ground or planted above ground in a deep container with ample drainage.
• Mint should be planted in sun or partial shade with high levels of moisture.
• Mint grows vigorously and can be harvested at any time.
• A good companion plant, mint repels pest insects and attracts beneficial ones.
• Fresh mint leaves should be used immediately or placed stems down in a glass of water with a plastic bag covering the leaves. Mint kept in the refrigerator should last for at least a week as long as the water is changed every two days.
• Mint can be frozen in ice cubes or dried in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place for use year-round.
Health Benefits of Mint
• Mint soothes the digestive tract and helps relieve upset stomach.
• Drinking mint tea reduces irritated bowel syndrome, cleanses the stomach and may clear up skin disorders such as acne.
• Mint cools skin and helps soothe skin irritations.
• Mint helps to eliminate toxins from the body.
• Crushed mint leaves keep teeth whiter and combat bad breath.
• Mint is a good cleanser for the blood.
Great Gift Idea: Portable Herb Garden
Get crafty and construct this portable herb garden, which includes fresh mint, thyme, parsley, basil, chives and other herbs. To make, plant herbs in a wooden wine crate using organic soil. Make sure to tell the recipient to put the crate in full sun either outdoors or on a windowsill. *Courtesy of MarthaStewartLiving.com
Recipe for Mint Tea
2 tbsp. agave nectar
4 oz. fresh mint (1 large bunch), leaves and stems
2 strips lemon zest, about ¼ x 2 inches each
Combine agave nectar, mint and lemon zest in teapot.
Cover with 4 cups boiling water and stir until combined.
Steep for 5 minutes and strain.
Serve hot or over ice.
Recipe for Mint Sorbet
4 cups mint leaves
1 cup simple syrup
Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a large pot.
Meanwhile, prepare an ice-water bath and set aside.
Add mint leaves to boiling water for about 30 seconds; drain and immediately transfer mint to ice-water bath.
Drain and squeeze out excess water.
Transfer mint leaves to blender along with simple syrup.
Puree until smooth.
Transfer mixture to an ice-cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Keep frozen in an airtight container until ready to use. Will keep for up to three days.
Recipe for Asparagus with Mint Butter
1 stick unsalted butter
½ cup fresh mint, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
Melt butter with mint, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a small saucepan over medium heat until just bubbling around edges.
Cook asparagus in a pot of salted boiling water until bright green and tender, about 3 minutes.
Drizzle a few tablespoons mint butter over asparagus, and toss gently to coat.