Magical Mint, in the kitchen or as a herb tea.

Personally I think a good culinary mint is not only essential in the  kitchen but also amazingly useful in the home.  It is a fascinating plant steeped in history,  I am particularly fond  of the story that the ancient Greeks believed that after nights of heavy drinking they could place a wreath of mint on their heads to exorcise an impending hangover.

We grow over 33 different  Mentha, Mints, on the herb farm.  Everything from Berries and Cream, to the classic Garden mint.  I have chosen some of my favourites and grouped them according to flavour.

Peppermint is the strongest flavour, it is the best for making a digestive tea, an infusion which is lovely at the end of a meal or for adding to puddings.

Peppermint, Mentha d’ Angleterre , Mentha Anglais,  Pfefferminze and Englisheminze, Mentha x piperita, has pale purple flowers in summer with very peppermint scented darkish green  leaves

A close relation to Peppermint is the Chocolate peppermint, Mentha x piperita f.citrata ‘Chocolate’,  which has pale purple flowers in summer with very peppermint scented dark green  leaves.

Photograph by Torie Chugg

This variety is amazing, it tastes just like expensive chocolates , try it in chocolate mouse.

Spearmint has a mid strength flavour and is known as the classic mint which is  ideal for mint sauce, with yogurt, or as a dressings and with new potatoes and strawberries. It also can be used to make a refreshing herbal tea, ideal for drinking on a hot summers day, or crushed with ice for a cool ‘sun downer’.

Spearmint, Garden Mint, Mentha spicata, has purple/mauve, small flowers in terminal, cylindrical, spikes in summer with mid green lance oval shaped, wrinkled spearmint scented and flavoured leaves.

Both Tashkent Mint, Mentha spicata ‘Tashkent’, and  Moroccan Mint, Mentha spicata crispa ‘Moroccan’, have mid green crinkled spearmint scented and flavoured leaves. They are difficult to tell apart in the kitchen although, in the garden, Tashkent is taller and the leaves are rounder.

Here is a recipe taken from my cook book , ‘Jekka’s Herb Cook Book’

Mint and Aubergine bruschetta.

The flavours of mint, aubergine and garlic are a great combination which makes these bruschetta so appetising. For those, like me, that like to know the meaning of words, ‘Bruschetta’ is derived from the Italian ‘Bruscare’ which means ‘ to roast over coals’. Alternatively you could call this posh toast.

Serves 4

1 Baguette, ( French Stick) ,  2 firm aubergine, 6 tbs olive oil ,  1 lemon,  zest and juice,  2 tbs spearmint, Tashkent, Moroccan or  Garden mint, finely chopped, 1 tbs flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped,  1 clove of garlic, peeled and very finely sliced,  sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Photograph by Jason Ingram

Slice the aubergine on the diagonal, 1cm thick, sprinkle with salt and set aside for about 40 minutes.  Place the aubergine in a colander and wash well under cold running water.  Pat the aubergine dry using a clean tea towel or paper towels.  Heat a griddle pan until nice and hot. Lay your aubergine slices on it, side by side and, when they are nicely charred on both sides, put them into a salad bowl.You will probably need to cook the aubergine in several batches.
While the aubergine are cooking, put olive oil and the  vinegar into a mixing bowl, mix thoroughly until amalgamated, add the chopped parsley and mint and then the garlic and one teaspoon of lemon zest,  season with salt and pepper to taste.  When the aubergine are all cooked, add them to the bowl and mix around, then check the seasoning again. Heat a grill to hot, slice the baguette on the diagonal, 2-3cm thick, grill on both sides.  Once the toasted baguettes have cooled, add the mint and aubergine mix to the slices, press in so that the juices seep into the toast and serve.

It is our one of our five  open days  this Friday 20th,  Saturday 21st  and Sunday 22nd April  10 am-4pm.  Do come and try some of our different mints.

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