Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Home Grown Herbs: Mint

Home Grown Mint (Mentha spicata)

Mint is perhaps the easiest of herbs to grow at home - and the benefits of having this brightly aromatic herb fresh are endless ... delicious in salads, teas, curries, wraps, and of course as garnishes .... desserts, fruit salads and fancy beverages would not be complete without a little sprig :D. Although there are different kinds of mints used in the kitchen, spearmint (Mentha spicata) is the most popular. Peppermint is used predominantly for teas and flavorings and spearmint for tea as well as all other cooking needs. Mint is an enormously useful herb beyond the kitchen too: it is used in medicines, perfumes, soaps, oral hygiene products, insect repellents, etc, etc.

I find that stem cuttings are the best and quickest way to grow mint. It grows quite easily from cuttings - child's play :>! I grew mine years ago from the leftover stems after using the leaves for cooking. Since it is a perennial herb, once planted mint will keep growing as long it gets watered regularly. It can be invasive and take over other plantings unless grown in a contained area or in a pot. It is perfect to grow in a pot in a cool spot with a tiny bit of sunshine, but not too much. Don't be afraid to pinch or snip the herb often; regular pruning keeps it growing and attractive. Any extra may be dried for when the herb is not growing actively.

How to grow: Strip off the lower leaves; the stems may be rooted in a jar of water or planted directly in moist planting medium or soil. For rooting in water, place the stems in a jar of water and keep in a cool place; they will root readily and quickly. When roots are about half to one inch long, plant them in a pot or in the ground and keep them moist but not soggy. When the top of the soil dries out, water the plants.

How to dry: My method is very quick and easy. Rinse the herb sprigs in a few changes of fresh water and drain well. Spread on towel-lined baking sheets and allow to dry in a cool dry place until they are completely moisture free and brittle. Crush lightly to separate the stems from the leaves - remove stems and discard them. Store in clean jars with tight lids.

Mint is used in many cuisines around the world where it is not just a pretty garnish. It is the main ingredient in emerald green mint chutney (an Indian meal would not be complete without it!) and middle eastern Tabbouleh. Mint was cultivated and used quite extensively in ancient Rome (see Cato's Lentils). Mint is an essential ingredient in many cuisines such as Asian, Greek, Turkish and also other regions around the Mediterranean. Next time you make Caprese salad, Raita, salad, or a bruschetta, try using mint in place of fresh basil or other herbs - and you will be in for a pleasant surprise - yum!

Here are a few recipes to try: Bruschetta, Tea, Stuffed Veggies, Spring Rolls, and Lentil Salad. Enjoy!!


Neetu's kitchen said...

great share...n I'll try ur (mint) recipes sometimes..

Geetha said...

T&D, thank you for your comments. I hope the recipes work out for you. Please let me know. Happy cooking!