Monday, June 22, 2009

Refresh - mint

Mint (Mentha herbs) plants (Lamiaceae or Labiatae) want to take over the world - I’m letting you in on the inside scoop here. These prolific, lovelies are my favorites to remove out of my garden without a care.  I give entire plants as gifts or use the parts without a concern about my loss. Mint tea is a wonderful  digestion aid which is something to keep in mind when you eat that disagreeable cuisine.  Also used as “women’s medicine” by natives(Ojibwe/Minnesota) - no, I will not are welcome.  Mint’s spunky taste can star in drinks, libations and all manner of dishes not to mention freshen breath and cleanse the palate between dishes.

Minty fresh makings
Using scissors, cut 4” mint stalks on a slant from tip down, or rip an entire plant mercilessly from the ground because you know it will make more.   

Creamy Mint-melon Popsicles
these are in ice candy bags

Insides, excluding seeds of 1 medium melon (honey dew, cantaloupe, )
handful of mint leaves, washed - no stems
3 T honey
1 T lime juice
1 c. unsweetened *strained yogurt 

Using 3/4 melon and mint, honey and lime juice, puree.  When smooth, add remaining melon and pulse to make smaller but visible chunks of melon, then add yogurt and stir in blender.  Pour into Ice Candy Bags, popsicle molds or ice cube tray.  Freeze for at least 4 hours.  Keeps 2 days.  An alternative to ice candy bags are the cone bags easily available in craft stores.
(*strained yogurt coffee filter in bottom of a colander and place inside another bowl, add yogurt and allow to drain for a couple of hours)

Tea; Mint flavor oils are discouraged by heat, better not to cook but add about 1/2 cup fresh packed leaves for 4 cups of boiling water.  Do not boil leaves, rather, pour boiling water over the leaves and steep for 5 minutes.  Dry mint leaf tea: allow to dry for about 2 weeks, use about 1 T. of crushed, dry leaves for each cup of water.  Add boiling water to tea, steep, don’t boil.  Mint tea does not reheat well.  

Infused (scented) Sugar: remove leaves from stalk and allow to dry for a day.  Add leaves to small batch of sugar in layers.  Allow to mature for a few days in tightly sealed container.  Strain and use in drinks, sprinkle on fruits, fruit salsas and desserts. Stir into chocolate icing for a mint-chocolate bang to that next chocolate cake you make.

Mint leaves mix well with fresh salads, chiffonade and toss with lettuces or vegetable/pasta/potato salads.  Rice salad: cool a cooked batch of rice (wild or brown is nice), toss with citrus-y dressing, top with sliced cucumber, wedges of tomato, crumbled feta cheese and freshly chopped mint. Rice salad is great with fish, chicken and other white meats. Pizzazz a recipe for warm Potato Salad: usually quietly partnered with parsley, use mint instead and balsamic vinegar, matchsticks of red bell pepper, red onion and garlic.  Of course you’ll use Olive oil and Kalamata Olives - won’t you? 

That Monarda plant aka bee balm,  the one that the butterflys love?  It’s a mint, which explains it’s ambitions to take over your garden, doesn’t it?  The washed leaves of the Monarda are excellent with fish, tomatoes raw or cooked and not minty cool to the palate.  

 If you must know, you can control the spread of this wild thing by planting it along with its pot, directly into the ground and encasing the spreading root system.  You’ll need to maintain those roots with scissors as necessary to keep invasion attempts in check.

Mint Give-Away
When gifting the plant, remove the scented love/hate-child  from the ground, trim roots to fit pot, add some chamomile plant or other  prolific upright flower to compliment, tie a ribbon, munch a leaf and say so long.