A Medley of Mints

Undoubtedly, mints are the coolest of the herb world and often overlooked as a refreshing addition to the indoor herb garden. Until now that is!

Some say there really is no such thing as an indoor herb garden. So many culinary perennials do much better with a dormant period, so I guess for the most part that could be true. In fact, that is why I leave some of my pots at the side of the house until winter has officially arrived and then bring them in. The rosemaries and other tenders come in first before a heavy frost but they too benefit from a little cooler weather. My windowsills get crowded with my favourite herbs that think spring has sprung and it is not uncommon for me to have lavender and rosemary blooms at Christmas. Chives are the most robust when defrosted gently but the mints do quite fine. It is important to make the transition gradually, just as you would when they go back outside in the spring.

During the winter months you can grow mint on your windowsill, however they do tend to get pot bound quickly so start with a freshly potted small plant and be prepared to repot it a couple of times as the roots will start to wander. If your mint indoors gets a little dried out or is not receiving sufficent light, it will send out runners under stress. Keep your mints trimmed for optimum leaf growth. Mints do not require as much light as other herbs like basil so they tend to do much better with the shortened days of winter.

Having a few mint plants on hand over the winter means fresh sprigs for flavouring, garnishes and cooking. All you need is a couple of leaves at a time for fresh flavouring. Unlike some herbs for cooking like basil and parsley, that would require a quantity to have sufficient flavour, mints can be used sparingly - just a couple of leaves go a long way!

Here's Some Ideas for Using Your Mint:

Mint Butter

A couple of fresh leaves chopped finely in butter goes wonderfully with peas and carrots. Soften the butter first and blend in the mint. form into balls and chill until needed.

Fruit Dip

Blend one tablespoon of honey and one tablespoon of finely chopped mmint leaves into a cup of plain yogurt. Chill for two hours and serve with sliced fruit such as peaches for dipping. Strawberries and cherries whole are nice as well.

Mint Brownies

Simply add a few leaves, finely chopped to your batter before baking. Peppermint is the most popular mint for using with chocolate. Or flavour the icing by heating the milk first and infuse a leaf or two in it to flavour. Let it cool first before blending into your icing.

Don't forget you can always make refreshing, sinus clearing tea by infusing a leaf or two in a cup of boiling water or use a leaf to flavour hot cocoa.

What Mint Goes With What?

Peppermint - Mentha x piperita
The most widely used flavouring and medicinal mint.
The flavour of this mint goes best with chocolate but blends well with fruits, lemon and orange especially for drinks and desserts.

Spearmint - Mentha spicata and Mentha spicata "Crispa"
This mint is easily recognized by the spear point of the leaf. Curly mint is also a variety of the spearmint. Spearmint goes well in vegetable dishes such as the butter above. It is also widely used in jelly to accompany vegetable and meat dishes, especially lamb. Spearmint is also used for making herbally-infused vinegar for cooking.

Depending upon your personal taste, mints can be added to salads and dressing, an especially cool combo is mint with cucumbers! Plus fruit dishes, cocktails and candied garnishes. Other culianry mints to try include Orange Mint, a favourite of mine for tea, Ginger mint, especially nice with butter for veggies, and fruity Pineapple and Apple mints for tea and fruit dishes.

There are so many varieties of mints and some are much nicer than others for culinary uses. I tend to shy away from some of the "new" varieties which sound more like a botanists' fantasy or a reinvention of the wheel. If I wanted basil or bananas in my tea, then maybe, but for me some are not so refreshing, just a little over-rated when it comes to culinary uses and they are better suited for a novelty garden. But if I only had room for one, it would have to be the orange mint!

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