Without mint a Kentucky Derby favorite would just be a julep. Leave off the mint and all you have is the pepper. And how good would lamb be without a side of mint jelly? Mint is a popular herb for cooking, making candy, creating medicinal remedies, and planting in a garden.
Legend had it that mint is named after Minthe, a nymph in Greek mythology. Loved by Hades, god of the underworld, Minthe fell pray to Hades' jealous wife, Persephone who banished her to the plant world. There, Minthe constantly sought underground water and shady places looking for her lost lover. In another tale, Persephone discovered the two lovers together. In a rage, she threw Minthe to the ground and trampled her. However, the soul of Minthe lives on in the tiny mint plant, its leaves always to be crushed.
Mint is actually native to Asia. It has been used by Greeks and Romans, mentioned in the Bible, and widely used in Britain since at least the 9th century, when it was included in the monastic list of herbs. Chaucer mentioned mint in a poem, and Culpeper said that " Applied with salt, it helps the bites of mad dogs."
By chewing peppermint leaves, it is believed that hiccoughs will be cured. Drinking mint tea will help indigestion and peppermint is noted to relieve migraine headache pain.
Mint grows like a weed, its runners spreading wherever moist soil and sun or partial shade are within reach. True to its wandering habit, mint has spread over the world finding its way into our gardens and food.
Spearmint is the choice most commonly used for cooking, although types such as lemon, orange, curly, apple, pineapple, ginger, gold, blue, balsam, Lebanese, variegated, and peppermint also intrigue gardeners and cooks.
Corsican Mint makes a great ground cover that is well suited for growing among stones in a path and its delightful fragrance rises whenever it is stepped on.
The best way to start growing mint is to find a friend who has a mint bed and get one or two root divisions, or buy them from a nursery. Mint does best in full sun or light shade, planted about 6 inches apart. The herb can be grown indoors by planting in a pot with moist soil, and placed on the kitchen windowsill.
The tiny leaves of mint boast the most concentrated flavor right before the plants bloom. Cut the mint then, pruning the plant to just above the first or second pair of leaves. Crushing, chopping, or bruising the mint with the back of a spoon increases its pungency. The leaves are stripped and dried in a warm dry place, or oven, or hung to dry in small bunches and stripped later.
Besides adding a sprig of mint to your mint julep you can make mint tea, mint sauces, mint jelly, or mix mint with other herbs or citrus juices for teas and jellies. The fresh leaves may be used in green or fruit salads, with new peas, and in candy.
Citrus - Mint Tea Cooler
1 C boiling water
3 regular-size tea bags
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2/3 C sugar
2/3 C fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 C fresh lemon juice
2 C water
Pour boiling water over tea bags and mint leaves; cover and steep 5 minutes. Pour mixture through a wire-mesh strainer, discarding tea bags and mint leaves. Stir in sugar and next 3 ingredients. Serve over ice. Yield: 1 qt.
Current and former staff members have contributed to our newsletter over the years. Now the articles are available to view here on our blog