If you've ever used mint-scented bath oil, you're doing what ancient Greeks did thousands of years ago. Crushed mint was used in the Mediterranean region to sooth skin and freshen the taste of water. Its leaves have been a part of recipes for centuries, and it was only recently that we started using mint oil to flavor chewing gum, toothpastes and candy.
The two kinds of mint that you'll use for cooking are a duo that you're probably familiar with: spearmint and peppermint. While they are close cousins, they taste and look quite different. Peppermint has a stronger, more astringent taste and large, dark green leaves. Spearmint, on the other hand, has a milder flavor and small, pointy, light-green leaves.
When is Mint in Season?
Mint grows as a perennial even in chilly climates. It does wonderfully well with little care and can be grown in gardens, planters, pots and greenhouses very easily, so don't be discouraged if you don't immediately find any at the grocery store. Check the fresh produce section carefully, since mint is easy to overlook. If you'd like to grow your own, visit your nearest gardening store.
How to Choose Mint
Fresh mint will have rough, bright green leaves and firm stems. Avoid bunches that are tinged with yellow or brown.
How to Store Mint
Wrap your mint stalks in a damp paper towel and place them in your fridge's veggie drawer. You can also treat your mint like a live plant, placing the stems in a glass of water, covering it was a plastic bag and refrigerating it. Dried mint isn't nearly as nice, but if you buy some, store it in a tightly sealed glass or plastic container, where it will keep for up to a year.
How to Cook with Mint
As with other strong garnishes (cilantro and garlic come to mind), a little bit of mint goes a long way. Prepping it is a snap. Just rinse the leaves under cold water, pick them off of the stems (which you can dispose of) and chop or leave whole as needed.
Mint is usually measured in single leaves or tablespoons (chopped).
Depending on the meal, you can try swapping out mint in favor of basil, rosemary, marjoram or (for a milder replacement) parsley.
Mint in Recipes
Mint may not be take up much room in a meal, but it's sure to be one of the standout flavors in any recipe! This little herb adds a delicious scent to hot grilled meats and a fresh, cool taste to fruit dishes.
Mojito Melon Kabobs with mint marinade are just the thing for a hot summer day. As a refreshing appetizer for an evening barbecue, they can't be beaten!
For a sizzling, Greek-inspired main course, top some Healthified Beef with Mint-Cucumber Sauce, which blends plain yogurt, cucumber, red onion and mint.
And to make a cool, irresistible dessert, whip up a Raspberry Mint-Marshmallow Creme Dip and serve it in a halved cantaloupe!