Garden Mints and Their Uses
Garden mints are among those herbs that have many uses in the kitchen, and are used as flavour enhancements for many foodstuffs, from new potatoes through mint sauces as an accompaniment to lamb dishes, to salads.
Everykitchen garden should include mint, but care should be taken when planting.
Any gardener will tell you that mint can very quickly become an invasive garden pest when planted in the kitchen garden.
It spreads by its roots, and a single planting one year can mean many years of this plant coming up all over the place, even in the flower garden, unless care is taken when it is first planted.
This can easily be avoided by planting mint in a container so that its roots are contained and not allowed to spread.
If your kitchen garden is set out in such a way that a container would look out of place, consider planting your mint inside a pot or a pail that you bury in the ground.
There are many different types of mint available, and what you grow is entirely a matter of personal choice.
Botanically, mint is Mentha spicata although there are many sub varieties.
Spearmint is the type used for minting new potatoes or peas, or for making mint sauce.
Others carry the flavours of ginger, pineapple, citrus and apple, all of which will enhance the cooked flavors of many kitchen dishes.
Whatever plant you choose to grow, you will find it really easy to propagate by simply potting up a branch of your plant with a little bit of root attached.
The mints can tolerate either full sun or shade, but do need more water than other kitchen herbs, so you may find it beneficial to grow in a container either near or in the kitchen, where you can give it water every day which other herbs in your kitchen garden may not appreciate.
How to dry dry mint for storage
In midsummer, mint can be dried for storage if the branches are cut off the parent plant before it sets flower and hung out in bunches to dry quickly under the summer sun on a washing line.
As soon as it has dried, rub the mint gently between your fingers to break the leaves off the stalks, and place in a sealed dry container.
Pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens variegata) is a variety of apple mint, and is noted for its green and white variegated leaves.
While it does indeed give off a mild pineapple scent, crush the leaf and it loses its scent.
It can be used in fruit drinks and juices and as a garnish in food.
Its most popular use today is as part of a mojita drink, which is made by adding carbonated water, sugar, lime and crushed mint to rum.
Lime mint (x piperita f. citrata 'lime') has a strong lime flavour and can be used in salads and fruit cocktails. It has rounded dark green leaves.
Try adding lime mint to curries and tomato dishes for that extra zing!
Moroccan Mint (Mentha spicata) is a very fragrant variety of spearmint and is best suited for making mint tea which is lovely refreshing drink to have all year round.
Mint tea is best made by added a few sprigs of mint to a pot of boiled water that contains the teabags you normally use, and allowing to cool slightly.
Serve with sugar if desired.
Other mints available include chocolate mint, apple mint, corn mint, lemon mint, Indian mint, grapefruit mint and others too many to mention.
Each one has a different flavor, comes from every corner of the globe and has many cookery uses depending on origin and culture.
Food Uses For Mints
Mint tea can be made as an aid to digestion by infusing the dried leaves in boiling water.
Mint sauce can be made by adding a little boiling water to the dried leaves then adding sugar and vinegar.
Mint jelly requires tart apples, water, citric acid, mint and sugar.
Mint Julep is a mixture of beer, sherry, mint and lemon which makes a refreshing summer drink that might blow your head off, so be careful with it.
Mint can be added as a garnish to many dishes, or as an ingredient in many more.
Health Benefits of Mints
Mint has been used for over 3000 years for its medicinal properties.
It can be inhaled for its high menthol content, or smoked, or drank in the form of tea, and made into a poultice or cream for external skin application.
It can help
- digestive ailments
- liver problems
- menstruation or nursing mother problems
- skin afflictions
- heart disease
There are so many health benefits to be derived from mint, it is impossible to list them all here.
But as you can see from the items on the right here, mint has a lot of uses in many industries for its soothing, calming effects and high menthol content.
The mint is used in the dental industry to make mouthwashes and toothpaste.
By the pharmaceutical industry to make many medicines and deodorants.
By many food manufacturers to make chocolate mints or mint sweets, as well as bottled mint jellies and sauces and as an additive in many bottled drinks.
It is used by the pest control industry in the making of manyinsecticide repellents.
Mint is one of those garden herbs that has so much more uses than we realise.