Notes from Herb Heaven

Mint

Mint is one of those herbs that has been in use for a couple of thousand years in Europe and is now cultivated all over the world. There are many types of mint, but the two most popular for culinary use are spearmint, with thin textured, clear green
arrow leaves, and apple mint, which sports large, broad leaves which are slightly hairy. Mint is like a weed and its growth needs to be controlled. Try not to grow different varieties together as the more vigorous species might overtake the root system of the other.

Mentha loves water and so needs to grow in a good water-retaining soil. Should your mint have little mauve or pink flowers, nip them in the bud in order to have more leaves and less seed. Propagation is best by root and stem cuttings. Plant runners in moist, well-composted soil. A mature plant can also be divided in the spring or summer. Mint does not need fertiliser or manure. If your plant should suffer from wilt, pull out affected plants and do not feed with nitrogen rich plant food.

Medicinally, mint is used in infusions, tinctures, and to make essential oil, used to make a wash for skin disorders ~ itching, burns, ringworm, inflammation and more. 5-10 drops of peppermint oil in a massage/carrier oil is used to relieve a headache, cool a fever and ease period pains. Drink mint tea to calm digestive disorders and nausea. Abdominal bloating and wind caused by overeating will be eased with a cup of minty tea, or chew a mint leaf. A litre of boiling water poured over two cups of fresh mint makes a pleasant steam inhalation to relieve nasal congestion brought on by colds and influenza. Caution:- It must be noted that pennyroyal tea should not be drunk by pregnant women. It is also contra-indicated for people with kidney problems. Young babies should not be given mint. Chocolate mint and black peppermint are often used in desserts. Chop mint into all sorts of vegetables such as carrots, turnips, mushrooms, tomatoes, peas and potatoes and what might have been a merely mundane dish will turn into something quite exciting. Enhance a salad with some freshly chopped mint. Desserts such as fruits and chocolate-based delights are complemented by mint’s fresh taste. Mint, yogurt and cucumber go together well and with an added touch of garlic, this becomes a tasty dip. Use it as a sauce for baked potato. Sauces, jellies and punches do well with a touch of mint, as does butter which can be used to top grilled lamb chops. (Try that next barbecue/braai.) Easy to freeze, chop mint and freeze in ice-cubes. Thaw in a strainer.

 

A Minty Lemon Marinade

50 ml fresh chopped mint leaves 
50 ml lemon juice
100 ml olive oil
25-30ml soy sauce 
1 tsp msg-free vegetable stock powder (try Woolworth’s or Ina Paarman’s) 

Mix all ingredients. Marinate meat/poultry 30 minutes or more. 

Variation: This mixture makes a very different salad dressing ~ dilute a little with water and reduce the mint leaves by half. Play around with the quantities to your taste.

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