Culinary Mint Medley

comments (7) March 29th, 2009

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The strong taste of peppermint holds up well in cooked dishes.
Curly mint is sweet and fragrant, with curly leaves.
Try applemint in fruit salads and in beverages. It also makes a good garnish.
The strong taste of peppermint holds up well in cooked dishes.Click To Enlarge

The strong taste of peppermint holds up well in cooked dishes.

Photo: André Baranowski

Fresh ways to use mint
Mint brightens just about any dish, from a couscous salad to new potatoes tossed with mint and shallots, from lamb with a mint jelly glaze to homemade peppermint ice cream. For a refreshing touch, rub the leaves around the rim of an iced tea or lemonade glass before serving. Keep freshly cut stems in a glass or vase of water on the kitchen counter and you'll have mint leaves at your fingertips when you need them. They last a good week this way, specially if you change the water every few days. In fact, the stems might even start to root.

To prepare fresh mint leaves for a recipe, rinse the leaves and stems and pat or spin them dry. Remove any spotted or bug-eaten leaves. Keep fresh-cut stems in water until ready to use, then remove the leaves from the stems. This can be done a few hours in advance, if necessary, and the leaves can be kept in a slightly dampened paper towel in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.Chop the leaves just before you are ready to use them, because they will darken and lose flavor once they are cut, just like basil leaves.

In early spring and summer, I like to add very small, whole mint leaves to salads. Since they are little, I don't chop them, and when you bite into them they give a surprise burst of flavor.

Create new flavors in some of your old standby recipes by adding mint. Add 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup of chopped mint leaves to your favorite chocolate or yellow cake recipe; the result will be a refreshing new taste. Or, try adding 1⁄2 cup finely chopped orange mint or peppermint to your sugar cookie dough before rolling it out. Add tiny mint leaves to a green salad for a pleasant zing or use some in a vinaigrette.

For a tasty dressing for fresh fruit, combine 2 cups vanilla yogurt with 1⁄4 cup fresh orange juice, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons minced orange mint. This simple and delicious dressing can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it. Vary the dressing a little by using different mints. Don't be afraid to experiment.

Mint tea, Moroccan style

To brew mint tea Moroccan-style, you'll need a tea kettle to boil water in, a teapot, some green tea leaves, and a bunch of fresh spearmint. Put the water in the kettle on to boil, and rinse the teapot with hot water to warm it. Add 1 teaspoon green tea leaves or one tea bag per person to the teapot. Rinse fresh spearmint, if necessary, and add enough to fill the pot at least half full of spearmint leaves. When it boils, add water to the pot, one cup per person, along with about 2 teaspoons of sugar per person. Stir and cover. You can use less sugar, but traditionally this tea is served very sweet. Let the tea steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Put a fresh sprig of spearmint in each cup and pour the tea. Get the complete recipe...

Dry mint for year-round use
To dry mint, cut the stems and tie them together in bunches, then hang them in a shady place with good air circulation. To dry small amounts, strip the leaves from the stems and spread them on screens or flat baskets. Keep the drying leaves out of direct sunlight and away from moisture. They should dry in a week to 10 days. You can tell the leaves are dry if they crackle when rubbed between your fingers; if they are pliable, they still have moisture in them. Pack completely dried whole leaves in glass jars and store away from direct light. To make a delicious dried mint tea, use equal parts peppermint, spearmint, and orange mint.

The ratio for substituting dried mint for fresh is about one to three; in other words, if a recipe calls for 3 tablespoons fresh mint, you would substitute 1 tablespoon dried mint leaves. The volatile oils are much stronger in a dried herb than in a fresh herb, since all of the moisture has evaporated. It is best to dry or buy whole mint leaves and crumble them into the dish you are making just before using. When you crush a dried herb leaf you release the essential oils, which you want to flavor the dish.

When using dried mint, the menthol comes through, but the subtle fragrance and flavor nuances are missing. Nevertheless, you can use dried mint successfully in tabbouleh, salads, dressings, teas, and baked goods. Dry or fresh, mint's cool flavor goes a long way in food and drink.

Read more articles on growing herbs...

by Susan Belsinger
August 1999
from issue #22

posted in: herbs, mint

Comments (7)

KristaGarner writes: Realy nice.
Posted: 1:50 am on October 14th
gardenerabby writes: id like to know how to successfully plant mint. ive been having the most difficult time getting them to sprout.

Posted: 7:01 pm on December 19th
TxDirtGal writes: Early this spring, I purchased a fledgling orange mint plant in hopes of reviving it. This mint is extremely hardy and has survived well during our spring thunderstorms and extreme summer heat. It flourishes and is so beautiful. Yesterday, I used the orange mint and basil from my garden in Quinoa Taboule. It is delicious!
Posted: 1:57 pm on June 15th
kgerling writes: so which is the best one for mojitos and juleps?
Posted: 3:34 pm on April 3rd
Merriven writes: When my new mint starts popping up in spring, I put out sticky paper traps, which seem to keep the white fly population away from my mint and other herbs. Its organic and if you put it out early it prevents a major infestation.
Posted: 12:17 pm on April 3rd
roymaduro writes: What do you do when you get white flies in your mint???
Posted: 10:54 am on April 3rd
muckingabout writes: That was a timely article. Thank you for that. The applemint plant that I have was given to me about 40 years ago and has come with me through various moves. One thing that I learned very quickly was that it does better in a pot even if planted in the ground. Otherwise is takes over the entire herb garden. Of all the varieties that I have grown or tried to grow this one is very forgiving and survives almost any condition. Having said that I wonder if it will survive the unusual minus 8 degree Celsius frost that we had here in the northwest about a month ago. My old Laural Bay tree is completely brown...

Posted: 12:36 pm on April 2nd
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