How long has it been since I did an installment of The Herb Series? Yeah, I can’t remember either. A bit strange, especially as it’s one of my favorites pieces to do; I love learning interesting tidbits about everyday things in our lives. So this time around I decided to look at an herb that’s everywhere, from toothpaste to cocktails. Mint has been used by folks for what seems like forever, so get comfortable and let’s chat about this common herb with the uncommon flavor.
Technically, it’s called mentha. That’s the name of the actual plant, and what a plant. It’s not hard to grow mint – it’s actually pretty hardy, although it likes really moist soil and partial shade, it can grow nearly anywhere. Some of the 18 or so varieties of mint plants can actually be invasive, so sometimes you may have to shepherd it’s growth a bit. Keeping it in a pot on its own is a great way to accomplish that, and one small plant should provide you with plenty to use at home (and possibly to give away!) However, they can also be good plants to grow alongside other ones, as they are known for repelling different kinds of insects. Once your plant is up and running, you can harvest the leaves basically anytime, which is beneficial, as you need to make use of your mint pretty quickly after harvesting. You can keep it stored for at least a few days in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, but once the start to get damp or change color, it’s best to let them go.
As I mentioned before, mint has been around forever. As in, mint seed fossils have been excavated at archaeological sites. And for much of that time, mint was used medicinally or cosmetically. As long ago as the 17th century, both peppermint and spearmint were so widely used that they were only named (and not described) in medicinal books. It has been known to be prescribed for headaches and chest pain, but is probably best known for its ability to handle nearly any digestive issue, from heartburn to vomiting. For centuries it was utilized in infused teas and waters, but in modern times even chewing spearmint gum can help handle an unhappy tummy.
But of course we all know it doesn’t stop there when it comes to mint magic. Mint is a flavor that is so common in our daily lives that you probably couldn’t name all of the products it is used in off the top of your head. Everything from toothpaste to Girl Scout cookies (yum!) to those little pastel butter mints you get at wedding receptions (yum again.) Some of us are peppermint fans, some prefer spearmint, but many folks are just perfectly happy to have that cooling, refreshing hint to drinks, baked goods, and even certain cosmetics. Naturally, there are a zillion and one recipes out there that include the “Green Queen”, but I thought this Watermelon Salad from Taste of Home sounded amazing, especially for springtime parties or a nice healthy lunch for yourself.
Obviously I could keep on talking about mint all day long, but since you’re pretty familiar already, I’ll stop here. I hope this was interesting and a little informative, and maybe got you thinking about just how mint is so interwoven into our everyday lives. Let me know in the comments what your favorite mint-flavored goodies are, and if you don’t like mint at all. Have a great week!