Sometimes I think Fresh Mint is a stepchild in the world of Herbs. An informal survey revealed very few use Fresh Mint often, but most Southerners grow it. Truth be told, give Mint a soggy spot in the garden and it can be invasive- yet if you smell fresh cut mint- there is something so refreshing about it. I was out in the garden checking to see what was coming up and found a vigorous patch of Fresh Mint. I grabbed a big handful, stuck it some water; my hands smelled good and the kitchen had a nice fragrance. I began thinking of new and long neglected ways to use garden variety fresh mint. Mint, in the herbal remedy world is known to lift the spirits, aid in digestion, ease the stomach and sinuses; some say it helps improve circulation too. A small vase of mint on a bedside table or even in a bathroom would lend a soft fresh fragrance. I generally dry my garden mint by tying it in bundles and hanging it upside down to dry. Mint Tea is refreshing as a winter tea, and it is nice to have a sprig of mint to decorate an Irish Coffee-but what of the rest of the year? Well… Southerners are known for their love of Sweet Tea. My grandmother made Sweet Mint Tea. You cannot make Tea sweet without making a Simple Sugar Syrup- (one cup sugar to one cup water heated until the sugar dissolves) Mimi added a packed 1/3 cup of fresh mint leaves to her Mint Simple Syrup. Strain the mint leaves before using. Simple Syrups when chilled will last a long time. I still make it up from time to time. Look at my Mint Tea!
Brew tea as you would normally, adding Mint Simple Syrup while the tea is hot. There’s no harm in gilding the lily– Rim those glasses when you’re ready for a glass of Mint Tea!
- Grate the zest of a lime into 1/2 cup of sugar. Dip the top of the glass in the mint simple syrup, then dip the rim into the lime zest/sugar mix to rim the glass. Let dry for a minute.
- Put a generous amount of ice in the glass, add Mint Tea over ice.
- Squeeze some lime juice into the Mint Tea-
- Garnish with lime wedges and a nice sprig of Fresh Mint- honestly this is one of the most refreshing drinks you will ever have!
Before you know it- the Kentucky Derby will be here and a whole lot of folks grow mint to make Mint Simple Syrup to use in their Mint Juleps, and of course the Spas and fancy places are making up flavored waters- so why not do it at home? Southerners have always loved ‘to take the waters’ at Natural Hot Springs, now the spas have all manner of ways to mimic that experience! Make up a pitcher of ice water- throw in slices of lemon and cucumber- add mint leaves and stir. In the Southern humidity, we need all the hydration we can get, a pretty flavored water is great incentive …or, you could entertain the idea of bringing back the old fashioned Ice Water Teas and do it in style.
Several years back, we went to the famous restaurant, Serendipity in New York City with some wonderful friends- the girls and I ordered their famous Frozen Hot Chocolate! I made my own version here at the cottage and admittedly, it is messy but oh so good… Chocolate Ice Cream (Chocolate Mint would be good too!) scooped into a coffee mug, my version has Marshmallow Crème on top instead of whipped cream. To add to the fun…I brushed some mint leaves with melted chocolate and chilled. Chocolate-coated Mint leaves are an old trick as a palate cleanser but awfully nice added to a plate of shortbread cookies too! In the case of my Frozen Hot Chocolate, as a garnish-a chocolate mint leaf along with a stem of fresh mint skewered a maraschino cherry! I dare you to try this as a quick and easy dessert!
Basil is a member of the Mint family of herbs, if you ever find yourself short of basil but long on mint; it makes a decent stand in for basil and some even swear by making Pesto using fresh mint, olive oil, walnuts and parmesan cheese. Of course there are mint jellies and mint sauces for Spring Lamb and when fresh Early Peas are in season – do like the French do- add shredded lettuce, a pat or two of butter then steam… for a twist on the classic French Spring Peas, add a bit of chopped Mint to garnish, careful not too much! Fresh Spring Peas with mint- a truly refreshing side dish. I love to chop up whole bunches of Parsley, add a generous handful of chopped fresh Mint, add chopped romaine, sliced green onion tops, cucumber slices and the twist on this salad is adding chopped salami. Dress with lemon and lime juice, garlic and olive oil. Now, that is one refreshing and healthy salad!
Perhaps my favorite use of Fresh Mint in homekeeping, is a filler in flower arrangements- Mint is generally so plentiful and sturdy enough to hold up in bouquets. I wish I knew how to make these into scratch and sniff photographs!
The fragrance of yard flowers- Fresh Mint and Rambling Roses is …well, amazing! But really, ain’t that pretty? I hope I’ve inspired you to try Fresh Mint. If not? I guess you could stand around smacking peppermint candy or popping that Spearmint gum like a Scalawag. Oh me!
Love y’all, Camellia
* all photographs are obviously mine.