In this short post, we will dive into the details of how to use mint in your recipes, a tasty plant that can you can easily grow in your kitchen. Let’s start!
What is mint?
Mint is a perennial aromatic plant, famous for its lingering scent and fresh flavour. It is mainly used in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Balkan cuisines. There is a rumour that the mint plant gets its name from a character in one of the Greek Myths, the nymph Minthe that Persephone was jealous of. According to the legend, Persephone turned Minthe into a lowly bush of mint plant. This story gives a mystic background to this spectacular plant.
What types of mint plants are there?
Mint plant has many varieties that have different uses in the kitchen. For example, spearmint and curly mint are the most common mint types that are used for cooking and in beverages.
I am sure you’ve heard about peppermint, it is a mint variety that can be refined into peppermint oil and used in some beverages. It is guaranteed to give a refreshing fresh kick to your drinks. If it is processed even further, you can get the menthol aroma for flavouring purposes. However, it is a little too strong for being utilized in dishes.
There are also many different exotic types of mint out there with interesting flavours. There are orange mint, chocolate mint, lemon mint, and even apple mint. They have the flavour and the scent of their name ancestors.
▲You can see a photo of chocolate mint above.
How can you use mint in the kitchen?
Before everything else, you should keep in mind that fresh mint leaves will always give more flavour and scent to your dishes than dried mint. While you can use mint in many recipes, dried mint leaves are recommended to be added in meat/chicken dishes, stews, soups, rice pilafs and sauces.
You can also use the fresh leaves in salads and beverages, you may chop the leaves into long strips (which is called chiffonade) or directly add the whole leaf even with its stem. If you want a stronger flavour you can even crush the leaves in a mortar with a pestle then add them inside the drink. You should keep in mind that a fresh mint lead would be a perfect addition to a hot tea.
As I mentioned previously, you can also use peppermint and its oil for a much stronger and fresher flavour. You can also find premade mint extracts and menthol syrups in local stores that can be used in baked goods and confectionaries.
How can you store mint?
You can store the fresh mint leaves or the entire bunch of stems sealed in a plastic bag inside the fridge for up to 3 days. You can store them even longer if you dry the mint. Simply bundle up the long springs of mint (that you either harvested from your own plant or bought from a local market) and hang them upside down to air dry for 4-5 days. Once they are dry, you can store their leaves in a seal tight jar or plastic bag and enjoy the flavour year-round.
Basic tips on how to grow your own mint plant
I have some basic tips on the topic for the people who are new at gardening:
Before you start:
They need room. Mint grows vigorously and expands very quickly. Acquire a broad pot for planting your mint, later the plant will enjoy the free space it can grow into.
Start with a starter plant or a seedling rather than with seeds. It is much easier to start with an already grown plant than starting from the seeds if you want fast results and don’t know where to start. You can upgrade to growing mint from seeds after you get some experience.
–Plant only one mint plant per container. Mint is a fast-growing plant, it will rapidly spread throughout its pot before you know it.
–Sunshine is your friend. It thrives positioned in a sunny window. Make sure that it gets sunlight approximately for 6 hours daily. An east-facing windowsill is perfect, if possible, avoiding the midday sun. Otherwise, the leaves can get scorch marks.
How to take care of your plant
–It loves water. Mint is a plant that requires its soil to be moist most of the time. You should water your plant at least once a day during hot summer days. Keep in mind that overwatering also can cause problems. Just keeping the soil moist but not actually soggy would be the key. Make sure that its pot is well-drained. (If your mint type has fuzzy leaves, it might be more resistant to less frequent watering.)
–Remove foliage regularly. You might want to remove the fallen leaves at the base of the pot, this way you can prevent any fungal infections the plant might suffer.
–Always water the base. This way the leaves won’t stay wet for a long period of time, which is the main cause of many plant diseases.
–Prune regularly. If your plant gets lanky and leggy, you might want to cut these branches shorter and use the leaves for your culinary purposes. This will help your plant to grow bushier.
–Keep an eye out for pests. Spraying the leaves with water at least once a week will help you dislodge any pests trying to stick on your plant. You must adapt this spraying into your morning routine, this way the leaves will have the time to dry under the sunlight and won’t stay wet throughout the day.
Thank you for reading, happy cooking!
Let me know any other tips or questions you have in mind in the comments!