Mint

Mint, with its dazzling wakeup taste, is added to drinks or desserts and often accompanies – or balances – spicy dishes as well.
Mint is easily distinguishable in taste from other herbs, even relatives such as oregano and basil. It is the refreshing menthol oils found in many mint varieties that enhance so many recipes.

In England, roast lamb is typically served with mint sauce, while mint chutney is a popular Indian side with pappadums. The leaves are an important addition in biryanis. Well-known Middle Eastern mint-infused dishes include tabouli and yogurt soup (tanabur).  Of course, where would the Southern U.S. be without the symbolic hospitality of the mint julep?

Mint actually pairs extremely well with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Varieties

Several types of mint are grown for commercial markets and in home gardens. Spearmint (also called “common” mint) is the most widely available followed by peppermint and pineapple mint. For teas, there are Swiss, ginger, and apple mints and for desserts, chocolate mint is a natural choice.

The most common extracts are oil of spearmint or peppermint.

Buying Tips

Fresh mint is available year-round in many locations. Ethnic markets will carry a wide range of mints that are highly flavorful. It is also an easy-to-grow plant that will thrive in a container or spread quickly throughout a garden.

Storage Tips

Refrigerate fresh mint for up to a week. Keep moist or with stems submerged in a glass container. Change water daily and cover exposed portion in plastic.

Dried mint is hardy and can be kept frozen for at least twelve months before losing flavor. If left at room temperature, it may acquire a musty odor.

Usage Tips

Peppermint is best for sweet dishes while spearmint is a better match for savory recipes.

The top leaves of the stalk are sweeter. Save these for garnish.

Add sprigs to fresh tea or a glass of lemonade.

Spearmint is a wonderful accompaniment to spicy dishes as it offsets some of the heat.

Use mint instead of basil for pestos.

Many cooks prefer to make their own mint jellies and peppermint desserts or candy.<

by BigOven editorial team
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