Add a zing to your life by enjoying the refreshing taste and energizing properties of fresh peppermint. Mentha piperita or peppermint is an easy to grow perennial herb that thrives as a groundcover in moist, shady areas. In fact its so easy to grow its considered invasive and best planted in a pot and not allowed to run wild in the garden. It spreads by stolons (runners) so can creep its way everywhere if not contained. Mint has long been used to aid digestion thus its use in ‘after dinner’ mints. It also helps settle the stomach and bile duct to prevent nausea. Peppermint has the unique ability to both cool and energize the body at the same time. Menthol, the active ingredient in peppermint is known for, has powerful antibacterial properties which make it commonly found in cold preparations to fight nose, chest and sinus infections. Its also useful in cleansing products for the home. Like most herbs peppermint is mineral-rich and contains high mounts of magnesium, phosphorus and other minerals in addition to numerous volatile oils . Peppermint is a visionary herb used to enhance intuitive skills and bring on prophetic dreams and ideas. Peppermint makes the mind more active, alert and protects us from mental lethargy and sluggishness.
Peppermint is an excellent partner to many foods including lime, ice tea and of course chocolate. Peppermint is easy to dry for later use and its good to continue cutting mint all summer to rejuvenate the mother plant.
In addition to drying mint, the leaves can also be used to make an infused syrup using either sugar or honey. The following easy recipe for mint syrup is based on one from Martha Stewart. I like it because it is flecked with tiny pieces of mint giving it a lovely green color. Most other mint syrup recipes are clear, unless food coloring is added, which somehow takes some of the fun out of it.
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup packed mint leaves
Heat the sugar and water together until the sugar dissolves into a simple syrup. Heat another small saucepan of water and dunk the mint leaves in the boiling water fro a bout 30 seconds to blanch them and stop the enzymes of growth. Pour the water and leaves out through a strainer and collect the water in a glass to drink later. Collect the the blanched mint leaves and add them to the simple syrup and then into the blender, for a quick spin of about a minute. Strain the mint syrup through a screen to remove the bigger bits. This fresh, green minty syrup with ice cream and dark chocolate sauce is almost too good for me to have in the house. I want to eat it every few hours! Peppermint buttercream frosting with a hint of green and a subtle fresh mint flavor, on a chocolate cupcake or brownies is simple but great. Ice tea and other drinks such as limeade, tart cherry juice and orange juice are taken from every day to extra special by adding just a tiny bit of mint syrup. Store it for several weeks in the frig (if it lasts that long) or freeze in cubes or hot water bath can a few jars. Open a jar in winter for very green and fresh visions of summer. Dream up great ideas for summer to come….
Mint infused honey is super easy to make by simply putting mint leaves in pure honey and allowing them to soak for several weeks or even months. Make sure the leaves stay below the honey surface. Strain out the mint leaves and enjoy this mint infused honey just as you do the mint syrup. It is wonderfully warming and delicious in winter with tea with lemon, especially when you have a cold. It compliments herbal remedies beautifully and adds deliciousness to herbs that tend to be somewhat bitter or grassy or odd tasting. Honey has recently been ‘discovered’ by hospitals as a powerful antibiotic to use for burns and other wounds. Combined with peppermint this activity is pronounced. Some people put the honey and mint in a crock pot overnight on the lowest setting to speed things up, while other herbalists would never heat herbs or use any kind of electrical device near them . Try to find local honey from a bee keeper that is processed as little as possible to keep all the bee energy possible.