Posted by: ktzefr | June 11, 2013

Mint Musings

“…drop a few leaves into a teapot to be transported to the Palace of Scheherazade.

That is how mint works.  Like a love potion.”

~ Jean-Claude Izzo

(Garlic, Mint, & Sweet Basil: Essays on Marseilles, Mediterranean Cuisine, and Noir Fiction)

I have never thought of mint as a love potion, but I do love the scent.  Peppermint patties.  Soft mint pillow candy with red and white stripes.  Cool mint bark at the beach.  Chocolate mint ice cream and gelato.  Russell Stover French Chocolate Mints that melt in your mouth.  Mint Juleps and Mojitos.  Candy canes at Christmas…

Black tea and orange mint; Photo:KFawcett

Black tea and orange mint; Photo:KFawcett

One of my most pleasant memories associated with mint is drinking Earl Grey tea years ago in the Caribbean where the British tradition of afternoon tea is almost as common as the tradewinds.  Earl Grey is actually flavored with the oil of bergamot, which is a small citrus tree that grows in Italy, but I later discovered that orange mint has a very similar scent.  I like the pretty red-veined stems and glossy leaves of the orange mint plant and, if the sprigs are clipped and dried, the herb will keep well for years in a sealed jar.  In addition to tea, it can be added to fruit, desserts, pork, and chicken.

Mint; Photo:KFawcett

Mint; Photo:KFawcett

One of my favorite and tastiest mint images is of a dessert I have never seen nor tasted.  It’s based solely on a short essay about a dessert the author had also never seen nor tasted.  I read “Mint Snowball” by Naomi Shihab Nye in an anthology published in 1996 (In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction edited by Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones).  In this essay the author relates the story of her great-grandfather who once ran a drug store in a small town in central Illinois.  He had one specialty — the Mint Snowball.   A secret elixir of fresh mint was poured over mounds of shaved ice and vanilla ice cream.  Ms. Nye recalls her mother’s description of this wonderful dessert she’d had as a child,  conjuring up visions of snow and ice, a taste of winter in the middle of summer.  She could never rid herself of that image; neither can I.  I keep planning to try to replicate it…

Mint also reminds me of horses.  The Kentucky Derby.  Mint Juleps.  There are a number of legends about the origin of the mint julep, but it has become traditionally associated with the Derby.  Every year during the two-day affair in May more than 100,000 Juleps are sold, and that doesn’t include the really expensive ones.  For $1,000 a drink (proceeds to charity), you can get a Julep in a gold-plated cup with a silver straw and made from Woodford Reserve bourbon, mint imported from Ireland, spring water ice from the Bavarian Alps, and sugar from Australia.  I enjoyed growing up in Kentucky and the bourbon is fine, but I’ve never cared much for mint juleps.   If you do, here’s how to make it…

While I prefer drinking tea, the one cool minty drink that’s great in the tropics is the Mojito.  Every fancy restaurant and local dive in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico has its own recipe for the Mojito.  Check out this version of the traditional Mojito recipe, which uses lime, or try the more exotic blood orange Mojito concocted by Emeril. 

What’s your favorite use of mint?

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Responses

  1. My favorite mint recipe:
    Bend down, break off a sprig,
    Put it in your mouth and let it
    Rest on your tongue.
    Salivate, chew, spit.
    Nature’s refresher!

    • Love it! Mint also works really well with cilantro, butter, and lime juice for shrimp and/or vege stir fry.


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