Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Apple Mint - Herb of the Week
In celebration of Hot Tea month, I decided to choose an herb that would be excellent in Tea, so the
Herb of the Week is - Apple Mint - Mentha suaveolens.
With a slightly fruity flavor it is a particularly good choice for garnishing drinks and adding zest to fruit salad, cottage cheese and cream cheese.
Like all mints, Apple mint had a square stem, but unlike many varieties, the leaves of Apple mint are round with a toothed edge and somewhat hairy. They are a bright green color and can grow from 1 to 4 inches in size. This plant gets its name from the slight apple scent and mildly fruity flavor these leaves possess. Apple mint will flower in July and August with attractive mauve flowers. The plant can grow 2 to 3 feet high and is a vigorous grower.
Historically mint is a strewing herb which was seen by the Greeks as the herb of hospitality.
Hardy to Zone 5 apple mint likes a rich, moist, well-drained soil. It grows in full sun, to part shade. Sometimes referred to as an invasive plant most people have more difficulty getting rid of mint, rather than getting it started. So to protect your yard, or other garden areas be sure to install a barrier that is at least 10 inches deep to keep the roots from spreading. Mint thrives in a partly shady spot with plenty of moisture. Allow 1 to 1 ½ feet between plants. Don’t dress the soil with fresh manure, or add too much organic matter as this will only encourage rust.
Cut Apple mint frequently to encourage a bushier habit, as it likes to grow tall. The leaves of apple mint will be large, so if allowed to grow too tall the branches will get heavy and flop. After the last harvest cut the mint to the ground, since it will spring from the root you do not need the plant to have a returning mint and this will eliminate Mint pest breeding grounds.
You can grow mints in a container, but you will have to repot each year because of the large root growth.
To propagate most mint species you should do so by cuttings or root division. Since many are hybrids, the seed is rarely viable and you might not get a true example from seed. Mint cuttings will root easily in a moist potting soil on just in water. When dividing an existing plant do so in the fall.
When making tea with mint you can use fresh or dried leaves. An excellent aromatic it can actually improve in scent as the plant grows older. In hot seasons mints can be hung around the house in freshen the air and lend that feeling of minty coolness.
A tea for insomnia can be made with Apple mint with orange bergamot.
Lay a crush apple mint leaf on a bee sting or other insect bite to relieve pain and bring cooling.
For a wonderfully refreshing drink, twist or bruise 1 cup of Apple mint. Place in a clean half-gallon container. Fill with fresh cool water. Chill in the refrigerator. Strain and serve on ice.
Apple mint sprigs in your iced tea will improve the sweetness.
An herb vinegar made with apple mint and orange peel is a great marinade for lamb and in salad dressing.
Recipes to Try
Zucchini with Mint and Lemon (serves 4)
1 lb. zucchini, sliced into thick coins
splash of olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ tsp. ground turmeric
5 thin lemon slices
2 tsp. minced fresh or 1 tsp dried apple mint
1 Tbls. minced fresh garlic chives or regular chives
Blanch the zucchini in boiling water until almost tender, about 1 ½ minutes. Drain and pat dry. The blanching helps tenderize the zucchini so it can be sautéed in very little oil.
Heat in a large sauté pan over high heat, then use a pastry brush to spread the olive oil around. Add the zucchini, garlic, turmeric, and lemon and sate until the zucchini is soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Toss with the mint and garlic chives and serve warm or very slightly chilled and be sure to eat the lemons too!
The best way to use apple mint, besides for its flavor in tea is with fruit. The fruity scent and flavor of the leaves really melts well with any fruit. You can just toss the leaves into your basic fruit salad or make an aromatic liquid to soak the fruit in.
¼ cup lime juice
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ cup (not packed) fresh mint leaves
Blend the ingredients together, then pour over 2 cups of fruit. Slices plums, mandarin orange section, cantaloupe, honeydew or sliced pears will all work well. Garish with fresh mint sprigs.
Cooling Tea Blend
1 tsp dried rose hips, crushed
1 tsp apple mint leaves, crushed
1 tsp sage leaves, rubbed
Please all herbs in a tea pot and add one cup of boiling water. Let steep 10 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey to taste.
This tea blend is cooling as well as high in vitamin C. It is especially good for treating feverish colds.