Meet Herb

Just regular garden variety mint. Well so I thought when I started looking into it. Who knew there were so many different varieties?
  • Bowles' Mint -- Mentha rotundifolia
    This is the largest of all the mint plants growing up to five feet in height. It has soft downy leaves.
  • Black Peppermint -- Mentha piperita vulgaris
    This variety is a very decorative one with purple stems, veined leaves and a mauve flower. It grows three feet high and its leaves are slightly menthol scented.
  • Corsican Mint -- Mentha requienii
    This is a very tiny plant, growing not more than one inch high. It's perfect for pathways and has a pretty mauve miniature flower. Has a very refreshing peppermint scent when crushed.
  • Eau-de-Cologne Mint -- Mentha piperita citrata
    This one is also called Orange mint. It has a red stem and red veined leaves with an extremely potent scent. It's great used dried in pot pourri.
  • Pennyroyal -- Mentha pulegium
    Under 2 inches high, this one is also a good border plant. It has small pink flowers and a peppermint scent.
  • Pineapple Mint -- Mentha rotundifolia variegata
    This is the prettiest of all the mints, with pale green leaves that are dotted with cream and white. It has a fresh fruity scent and flavour.
  • Spearmint -- Mentha spicata
    This is the mint we're most familiar with seeing running rampant in our gardens and such. It grows 1 1/2 - 2 feet high, has smooth dark green leaves and in August tiny white flowers. It is also the mint most commonly used in mint sauces and jellies. It can also be added when cooking garden peas or new potatoes. Use it also for Middle Eastern salads such as tabbouleh and marinated vegetables.

Bowles' mint has a better flavour but its leaves are fuzzy and that can sometimes be off-putting. Peppermint is easily recognized by its warm and spicy flavour, sort of toothpaste-like. It's used mostly for making candy and chocolate, infused into alcohol, oil, or water. Either spearmint or peppermint can be steeped for tea either alone or mixed with other leaves. Both Eau-de-Cologne mint and Pineapple mint are a bit too flowery for use in cooking.

Best way to grow mint is in a container as its roots can spread and take over a garden. Do this easily by planting runners in light moist soil, in a semi-shaded spot.

Infuse a generous handful of leaves and flowers in boiling water, about two cups, then add the infusion to a warm bath. Or alternatively, you can tie the leaves into a piece of cheesecloth and suspend the sachet under the hot running water. Mint has a very helpful, healing, soothing effect. Use it in cleansers, toners and astringents. Chew a few leaves for an instant breath freshener.

Mint Astringent

This astringent is gentle and soothing for the skin and will help to improve the complexion.
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint
  • 4 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups distilled water

Put the mint and vinegar in a lidded jar, cover it and leave it to infuse for seven days. Strain it and pour in the distilled water. Mix well. Bottle the astringent, cover it and label. Shake well before using.

  • Yields: 20 ounces

Minty Astringent

This is good for normal to oily skin, use it daily followed by a moisturizer. It has a nice fragrance and can also be used by men as an aftershave.
  • 1 tbsp fresh peppermint, spearmint or lemon balm
  • 1 cup witch hazel

Combine the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Allow the herb to steep for 1 week. Strain it and store it.

Everyone has their own favourite mint sauce recipe, and since quite honestly I don't use it much, so I won't go there. But here follow a couple of neat recipes I've tried and had success with.

Duck Breast with Orange and Mint

This recipe is a variation on the traditional Carnard a l'Orange. Serve it with sautéed or roasted potatoes and green beans.
  • 3 oranges
  • 3 large duck breast halves, with skin on and cut into large chunks
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/4 cups good quality chicken stock (or duck stock if you have it)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 or 5 tbsp mint leaves shredded
  • 3 tbsp port wine
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel the zest from two of the oranges, then remove all the pith and segment them. Blanch the zest in boiling water for five minutes, drain and set aside. Juice the third orange and set aside also.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat and fry the duck until nicely browned on all sides. Remove the duck from the pan and keep it warm. Remove all but a tablespoon of fat from the pan, sprinkle in the flour and mix it to form a paste. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently to get any little bits in the pan, gradually pour in the stock, continuing stirring till you have a smooth sauce. Stir in the sugar, juice and peel and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and add the duck. Simmer for five minutes more, add mint and orange segments and continue simmer for three minutes. Check the seasoning and stir in the port wine. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 4 servings

Tabbouleh with Parsley and Mint

This is a traditional Middle Eastern dish. It can be served as part of the appetizer selection, as a salad, or in pitas as a light lunch.
  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 red onion minced
  • 1 1/2 cups seeded and diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 5 tbsp minced flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh mint
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the bulgur wheat under cold running water, then place in a large saucepan and cover with 2 1/2 cups of water. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed completely and the wheat is tender. Drain any excess water well and fluff the wheat with a fork to separate all the grains. Transfer to a large bowl.

Stir in the onion, tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, herbs and seasoning, mix well and allow to cool to room temperature. This is a great dish to prepare ahead. Simply combine everything, cover it and chill till you need it.

  • Yields: 4 servings

Well there you have it, another month come and gone!!

Hope you're having a safe and healthy summer. If you're anything like me you're about ready for the kids to go back to school.

I'll be right here same time same space next month . . . see you then!!