Minty Fresh!

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By Heidi Lewis

The power in mint is menthol, its essential oil. It’s a voracious plant and  can even be invasive. Mint is rich in vitamins A, B12, C, thiamine, folic  acid, and riboflavin. It contains many essential minerals like manganese,  potassium, selenium, iron, calcium, zinc, and phosphorus. This is why it is  valued as an anti-oxidant.

Mint, or mentha, comes in at least 30 varieties —  peppermint, spearmint, catmint, lemon balm, Moroccan  mint, and a multitude of “flavored” mints, with hints of pineapple,  chocolate, basil, orange, and so on. The mint family is divided into three  main categories: peppermint, spearmint, and pennyroyal. Pennyroyal is  the wild groundcover version and should not be eaten; spearmint and  peppermint have many culinary and medicinal uses.

Greek mythology traces the origin of mint to Persephone, the wife of  Hades, who, feeling scorned by her husband’s love for the little nymph  Menthe, turned her into a plant. Mint has many uses, from calming  to refreshing. In the advertising world, minty breath can give you the  power to win over perfect strangers or lift a car. In cooking, it also has  transformative properties, converting plain couscous into a Middle Eastern  delight. Cooked peas and carrots are enlivened with a sprinkle. Try it  minced on eggs, in fruit salads, or to perk up a green salad. It’s also lovely  in a variety of hot and cold beverages.

Storage: To store mint, set stems in a jar of water and loosely cover leaves  with a plastic bag in the fridge. Plucked leaves can also be frozen or dried.

To use: Fresh leaves can be torn or cut chiffonade fashion. To chiffonade,  stack the leaves and roll them into a little cigar; cut at an angle. Even if  you just use the little florets from the mint tops to add pizzazz to your  iced tea, you’ll want to say (in a Euro-infused TV-commercial voice):  “Mint, the fresh maker!”


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