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Posts Tagged ‘mint’

Mint the Nymph

Fingers crossed we’ll have a sucessful lambing this year so I’ve been growing lots of Spearmint, Mentha spicata in the polytunnel ready for mint sauce. The origins of the name Mentha lie in mythology Minthe was a nymph, who because of the love Pluto bore her, was metamorphosed by a jealous Proserpine, into a mint plant. The alternative myth is that Minthe was seduced by Hades god of the underworld and his jealous queen Sephony turned Minthe the nymph into a mint plant.

There are 25 species of aromatic perennials in the Mentha genus and not all are particularly great for culinary use. I’ve found that a lot of the fruit scented mints, whilst very aromatic, don’t really retain their scent / flavour when picked.

Common garden mint, lambs mint or to give it its official name Mentha spicata (Spearmint) is however an excellent culinary herb. Eating the leaves fresh from the plant is an intensley minty experience and the flavour is retained when making mint sauce, using in desserts, cocktails and syrups. It also makes a very refreshing herbal tea.

Mentha spicata is a creeping perennial with lilac, pink or white flowers borne in terminal cylindrical spikes. There are a number pf varieties that can add a more decorative look to your herb garden. Mentha spicata var. crispa or curly spearmint has strongly crinkled leaves. Mentha spicata var. crispa ‘Morroccan’ has a very clean mint flavour and a good choice for all culinary uses.

Generally growing mint isn’t a problem it’s growing anything else that can be a difficulty if mint is allowed to rampage freely through your herb garden. Mint spreads  via creeping roots so if you do plant in in a herb garden rather than a container sink a large bottomless bucket in the soil about 30cm deep and plant the mint in the centre. This should contain your mint whilst still giving it plenty of space to grow. Mints hybridize very easily as well so unchecked will not necessarily stay true to type as they wander your garden.

This vigour of mint means that propagation is fairly fail safe. I’ve grown Mentha spicata from seed very easily and also had great sucess with stem cuttings taken at all times of the year. I haven’t tried root cuttings yet but if taken in spring and with care taken to include a node on your cutting sucess is pretty much guaranteed. When planting mint cuttings and seed I’ve just used a standard compost mix.

The other method of propagation  mint is division. Every few years dig up your plants and divide. This will dissuade them from producing too many root runners.

Mint grows quite quickly so get planting in the next few weeks and you could be making your own home grown mint sauce to have with lamb.

Here’s a recipe link http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/realmintsauce_67706

Here’s a recipe for another culinary use for Mint  Mojitos http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/mojito_85338

And a picture and illustration of Mentha spicata var . crispa

Tea Garden Taste Test

I’ve written before about the herbal tea plants that we’re growing in our polytunnel. We’ve planted some stock beds and also tried out planting a tea garden in a coir trough planter. The plants seem to have done well in both situations with lots of healthy foliage perfect for brewing up some tea or Tisane to use the proper name for making an infusion out of dried or fresh leave.

With heavy rain and thunderstorms hampering our plans for doing things outdoors this morning we decided to have a taste test of all the herbs we’ve been growing in our tea garden. We tried Lemon Verbena, Bergamot, Mint, Lemon Balm and Rosemary.

Making a tisane from fresh leaves is really easy. All you need to do is take some leaves from the plant, crush / tear them slightly, add boiling water and leave to brew for 5 minutes. Then you just need to strain out the leaves and you’re left with a really fresh cuppa. If you’ve got  a sweet tooth add a little bit of honey to sweeten.

We’ve got a glass teapot or Tisaniere to brew our tea but you could just as easily brew it in a normal teapot or in the cup and use a tea strainer to separate out the leaves.

As far as the taste goes for our tea experiment, both the Lemon Verbena and Lemon Balm had a strong lemon scent but the taste was milder with just a hint of lemon, adding a sweetner (sugar or honey) seemed to enhance the taste . Although very refreshing lemon flavour drinks always reming me of lemsip cold and flu remedy. The taste and scent of the Bergamot tea is quite hard to describe it seemed really familiar but we couldn’t think what it reminded us of. A bit of reasearch and I discovered that Bergamot produces a similar scent and taste to Earl Grey tea, because the plant is similar to Bergamot Orange which is used in Earl Grey tea. The Mint tea, as you might expect, had a very strong mint aroma and was one of the stronger tasting teas with a robust minty flavour that mirrored the aroma. My favourite though was the Rosemary. The strong flavour and scent of Rosemary really came out in the tea and was an unusual but very pleasant experience.

Here are some pictures.

As well as the herb plants for tea I’m also growing some Camellia Sinesis, the plant used to make white tea, green tea, oolong, pu-erh tea and black tea. So far I’ve only got four small cuttings so it will be a while before we can do a taste test. I’m growing the cuttings in pots because they require an ericaceous (acid) soil. Hopefully they will thrive in the polytunnel and we’ll be able to take cuttings in the future as well as having enough leaf material to try making our own tea.

In the near future our ready planted tea gardens will be available to buy through the Hooters Hall shop ( coming soon)