Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Holly's Top Ten Edible Herbs...#2

Lemon balm’s cousin, mint, is well-known and beloved as an edible all over the world. Called herba buena in Mexico, and used all the way across the world in Moroccan green teas, as well as everywhere in between, mint is a versatile, welcome addition to many world cuisines. Southern U.S. custom has us sipping mint juleps, but there are other wonderful ways to use this culinary (and did I mention medicinal?) herb. Chopped or sliced, the fresh leaves are the traditional garnish for tabouleh, and many grain dishes enjoy the addition of mint and/or lemony herb leaves.

Mint comes in all flavors and sizes. When I was the head gardener at the historic Mast Farm Inn in the lovely Valle Crucis, North Carolina, I routinely harvested bouquets of fluffy apple mint from the sides of the creek that ran by the centuries-old cabin. Many gardeners grow chocolate mint, or pineapple mint, but my favorites for medicine and eating are plain old peppermint (Mentha piperta) and spearmint (Mentha spicata).

These two mints are noticeably different: peppermint usually has larger leaves and a more pungent, sharp flavor. Spearmint has smaller, more petite leaves, and a much sweeter flavor. When preparing sparkly sun beverages with children, use spearmint, as it is generally tolerated better by picky eaters, and when making a summer blend with zingy flowers such as hibiscus, combine both peppermint and spearmint for a well-bodied beverage.

Mint is known to increase blood circulation and can be helpful when you’re feeling sluggish; this is why it’s often included in hot chocolate concoctions and given in the depths of a cold winter.

To Your Whole Life,

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