Veggie of the Week - Mint
sponsored by Coleman Farms
We typically associate mint with beverages, sweets and dental hygiene, but it's culinary roles are far broader, and some mints go beyond the culinary, being well-established in medicine, as insect repellants, etc. A look at the first three references gives an idea of the size of the family and the uses it's put to.
When it comes to culinary mints, there are still choices to be made. Tea, for example. Any common mint is o.k. in a tea, either on its own or together with some India tea. Spearmint, which is your common or garden variety mint hereabouts, while nice enough in sweetened iced tea, leaves something to be desired in hot tea, where its toothpasty overtones can be a bit cloying. The answer is, use another mint. Moroccan mint, while having a strong mint flavor and aroma, balances this with a certain astringency admirably suited to tisane or tea, sweetened or not. Rather than the sweetish finish of Spearmint, this mint leaves behind only a light clear mintiness.
Similary, Spearmint works well enough in, say, a sherbet, but less well in savory dishes. Moroccan mint is fine for dishes including meat, such as the Tajines, where its robust flavor will hold up well in competition with the meat, onion and other spices, and the rather coarse leaf will be broken down by cooking. Salads - green, ricey or tabouleh - are another matter: the flavors are mild and the leaves will be eaten fresh. Spearmint is pretty much out of the question here - the flavor is too assertive and the texture wrong. What works perfectly is Persian Mint. The leaves are delicate and tender, the flavor is concentratedly mint, like Moroccan Mint but without the astringency. Persian Mint is so nice fresh that a typical Persian use is to serve it in side dishes as a condiment and palate cleanser.
There are other beverages than tea which call for Mint. A glance at the recipe links below shows a certain indifference here, but this is unwarranted. Spearmint might work well enough in a Julep, where the doninant flavor is going to be the bourbon; use it in something lighter, like a Mojito, and you risk a result reminiscent of Scope®. Here again, probably the best solution is Persian Mint, unless you want the greater assertion of Moroccan.
This week we've been a bit extravagant with the recipe links, particularly the foreign ones. The point, I suppose, is to show the breadth of use of Mint. The German language sites in particular suggest uses which seem unusual to us, such as flavoring salt or butter with mint. All the sites include recipes from the Mediterranean, but the Arab part seems underrepresented. This is probably because North African and Near Eastern cuisine take Mint for granted, the way we might take chives, parsley or onions for granted. However delicate the flavor of Mint may seem, it can be used much the same way as this herby trio, getting along well with ingredients as varied as eggs, garlic, cucumber or chickpeas. Thinking of Mint as being somewhere between Chives and it's cousin Marjoram helps reveal its possibilities in the kitchen.
The three mints we've named can usually be found in the Santa Barbara Farmers' Market; others, such as Vietnamese, Chocolate, Apple and the cousins Lemon Mint (Mélisse or Lemon Balm) and Cat Nip, can sometimes be found. Check Coleman Farms or Earth Tryne Farms.
Some Medical Uses
www.verbena-plus.de (pour chiens)