Hot weather brings cooling herbs and the "coolest" by far is fresh mint. If you planted some in your garden this year, it's probably going crazy growing about now! We all know the pleasing flavor of mint - it's in everything from toothpaste to gum and, of course, "mints." That initial peppery bite of mint is followed by a deep coolness - perfect for the hot months of summer. As an added bonus, mint promotes healthy digestion - making it a perfect addition to your favorite dishes.According to garden experts, there are over 15 varieties of the mint plant. Red mints of the peppermint variety are stronger in flavor and aroma than spearmint and other varieties of green mints, but they all share that common cooling taste. It's really a personal preference as to which you choose to use. Check our produce departments or your local farmers' market if you don't have a personal supply of fresh mint.Fresh herbs generally taste best when used raw or in recipes that are cooked for a short period of time. If your dish needs to cook a while, just add some fresh mint at the end and cook for a minute or two more. If your recipe calls for dried mint, try substituting two tablespoons fresh mint for every one teaspoon of dried. There are no hard and fast rules, so feel free to vary according to taste.
I think fresh mint is just perfect for cooling drinks as well as fruit and vegetable salads. It's also delicious in marinades and dressings or simply slivered and sprinkled over just about anything you've grilled out-doors. Want to add more mint to your diet and your life? Try these ideas:
Add fresh mint to smoothies - especially wonderful with berries and stone fruit.
Add fresh mint to any grain salad - tabbouleh, couscous, quinoa, wild rice, etc. Try this refreshing barley salad with mint.
Add fresh mint slivers to salad dressings and dips, or puree the ingredients all together in the blender.
Add mint to chilled fruit soup - especially wonderful with melon!
Add mint to Gazpacho or cold cucumber soup.
Sprinkle mint over grilled lamb or seafood. Or try these lamb patties.
Add fresh mint to a stir fry. Try Rosemary and Mint Lamb Stir Fry with Apricot Couscous.
Stir fresh mint into yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream or ricotta cheese.
Add fresh mint to vegetables salads, grilled or raw.
Fresh mint is perfect with summer fruits - toss into a salad or sprinkle over berries or melon. This one is unique: Tomato and Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint.
Make simple hot mint tea by pouring hot water over finely minced fresh mint leaves and steep for 5-10 minutes. Add honey or agave if desired. For extra tummy soothing, mix in a little fresh grated ginger root. Try this delightful Moroccan Mint Tea.
Brewing iced tea? Mint is great with black, white, green or herbal tea.
Blend brewed mint tea with fruit juice such as apple or pomegranate.
Try a couple of mint leaves along with lettuce or baby spinach leaves on your sandwich.
Stir a little mint into cooked peas and carrots.
Garnish vegetable soup with mint.
Add mint to homemade or prepared pesto sauce.
Try some fresh mint in pasta salad.
Add some minced mint leaves to ice cream or frozen yogurt. Or make a Minted Strawberry Fool.
Got any favorite ways to use fresh mint? I would love to hear.