With spring in full swing, I’m all about the fresh herbs—especially mint! Let’s chat a bit about what makes this fragrant perennial plant so healthful.
The Curated Kitchen:
MINT, SPEARMINT, PEPPERMINT
WHAT IS IT? //
Mint, spearmint, and peppermint are varieties of the same herb from the Mentha family. There are actually more than 500 different varieties (nuts!) but the two most common culinary varieties are peppermint and spearmint.
While these two are often used interchangeably, they are actually subtly different in flavor. Spearmint is considered to be more warming whereas peppermint is known for its cooling properties and is slightly more stimulating and invigorating to the senses.
WHY YOU NEED ‘IT //
Personally, I think everyone needs mint chocolate chip something in their life, but OK, OK, here’s the real deal reasons it’s so cool (ha!)…
The stimulating properties of fresh mint help the body’s circulation, energy (chi flow), and supports the lymph system.
Because of its cooling effects, mint is often used in medicinal remedies for hives, excessive itching, digestive toning, painful muscle spasms and/or menstruation.
Menthol has been shown to decrease smooth muscle contractions often associated with digestive distress and can be very effective at treating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
WAYS TO USE ‘IT //
Mint can be a bit too overpowering in savory dishes, but there are instances where it works well. However, I’m partial to sticking to spring and summer favorites like strawberry mint spritzers, mint chocolate desserts and non-dairy ice cream, as well as herbal tea.
You can also use it for alleviating digestive woes when consumed in an enteric coated capsule.
A few more ideas below…
Desserts + Non-Dairy Ice Cream. I most likely don’t have to tell you about the magical ways that fresh mint or mint extract can be used in summertime treats! Mint chocolate chip ice cream is a childhood favorite of mine and you better believe that I have a fun, healthier recipe coming your way this summer! 😉
Salad Dressings. Add it to your vinaigrettes to give them a burst of coolness. It’s especially delicious with strawberry and rhubarb—both coming into season now, too.
Fruit Salad. Fresh mint goes great in fruit salads of all sorts. Get creative!
Infused H2O. Add a refreshing burst of flavor to your water bottle by adding a few mint leaves and slices of fruit (kiwi, strawberry, lemon, lime) or cucumber.
Essential Oil. Use peppermint and spearmint essential oil to treat inflammation, nausea, fevers, headaches, migraines, and even gas or hiccups.
Chewing Gum + Mints. Chewing mint or mint gum has been shown to improve concentration—just make sure it’s natural or sweetened with stevia or xylitol versus sugar).
Tea. Infuse boiling filtered water with fresh mint leaves for a refreshing cup of tea that will energize, revitalize, and awaken the senses.
Enteric-Coated Peppermint Oil Capsule. When consumed in this type of supplement, peppermint may be helpful in alleviating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome since peppermint has been shown to relax smooth muscle tissue.
Ointments + Salves + Lip Balm. Use a mortar and pestle to grind it into a paste and use it as natural remedy for treating hives, rashes, or muscle soreness.
SHOP SMART //
Fresh is better than dried as the latter can have a more intense and even bitter flavor. As with all leafy greens—even herbs—choose organic whenever possible since greens are especially susceptible to harmful effects of pesticides.
Look for bright green leaves that do not have any yellow spots.
Wrap with a damp paper towel and store in the refrigerator or place stems in a small glass jar with fresh water until ready for use. Even better? Grow your own (see below for tips) and pick it only when you’re ready to use it.
TIPS + ADVICE + SAFETY //
If you’ve ever thought it was a good idea to plant mint in your herb garden, you probably very quickly realized that it’s best to keep mint well contained! This perennial has a tendency to take over wherever it’s planted and crowd out other herbs nearby. Use a small container to keep it under control!
Mint and menthol is not recommended for use with infants and should be used cautiously with children (unless we’re talking about mint chocolate chip ice cream, obviously!).
YOUR THOUGHTS >>>
What memory does fresh mint evoke for you? How do you use this herb in everyday cooking or for medicinal purposes?
Wishing you all a relaxing and joyful weekend! See you Tuesday for a summer grilling recipe that I know you’re going to L-O-V-E!