Quick Recipes and Easy

Stimulating, Medicating Mint

In Greek mythology, Pluto, god of the Underworld, fell in like with the gorgeous nymph, Minthe. Pluto’s wife, Persephone (the daughter of Zeus), became jealous and changed Minthe into the herb, mint. Pluto could not bring Minthe back to life, but he gave the herb a fragrant aroma and arranged it so that the more Minthe was trodden upon, the sweeter her smell would be. Hence the popularity of mint as a “strewing” herb. In medieval times, strewn mint not only helped as an air freshener, but its antiviral and antibacterial qualities were reputed to combat the plague. The Pennyroyal species of mint has long been used as an effective flea deterrent. Pennyroyal, incidentally, is one species of mint that should never be taken internally. It is especially toxic to pregnant women and can cause miscarriages.

The genus Mentha
consists of 19 original species, but these have hybridized into about 2,000
different mints resulting in botanical confusion, but culinary and medicinal

Contrary to what many gardeners believe, most species
of mint do not require shade and wet soil. In fact, like most herbs, mints
thrive in well-drained soil in full sun. Indeed, mint is susceptible to rust if
kept too damp. Because this herb spreads rampantly through invasive roots, it
is ideal for container growing. Grow different species in separate pots in
widely spaced locations to discourage cross-pollination. Cutting back the plant
and especially the flowers will also discourage cross-pollination and ranginess
and encourage new growth.

The original medicinal mint was spearmint. Peppermint,
which is stronger in flavor, is a hybrid of spearmint and water mint. Because
it is milder in flavor, spearmint is preferred for raw foods like tabbouleh
salad. Most cooks agree that the best species of peppermint for culinary
purposes is Blue Balsam, or Mitchum, mint. Bergamot mint or orange or other
citrus mints are best with fruits and desserts or for iced tea.

Mint leaves can be round, oval, slightly pointed,
smooth or wrinkly and have toothed or serrated edges. The telltale feature of
all mints is that the stems are square.

In Ayurvedic medicine, mint is recommended as a tonic
and digestive aid and for coughs and colds. The medieval Abbess and herbalist
Hildegard of Bingen prescribed mint for indigestion and gout.

In Dr. James A. Duke’s brilliant book, The Green Pharmacy, he cites mint as
effective in the treatment of arthritis, backache, gallstones, herpes virus and
morning sickness. Peppermint in particular he recommends for treating not only
indigestion, but also claims its antioxidants will help prevent cancer, heart
disease and other ailments associated with aging.

The classic savory application for mint of course is
for roast lamb. But, the herb goes equally well with all meats including
chicken and fish and especially with the hearty taste of wild meats such as
venison, particularly if served with a berry sauce. Most vegetables also will
be enhanced with the addition of mint, notably new potatoes, peas and carrots.

Here’s a fantastic recipe for Roast Duck with Gooseberry Mint Sauce. The recipe can be expanded
and a goose substituted for the duck. This would make an brilliant replacement
for the traditional turkey on Thanksgiving Day.

1 medium sized duck (4-5
1 celery rib, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, diced
1 large bunch of Blue
Balsam or other peppermint
½ cup of gooseberry jam
¼ cup of shredded mint
leaves (any species – even spearmint)
A few mint sprigs
Salt and freshly ground
pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Wash and
dry the duck. Pierce the skin on the fatty parts to help drain the stout. Lightly
salt and pepper the duck inside and out. Place the duck, breast side up in a
roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes.

Remove the duck from the oven and fill the cavity with
the vegetables and the Balsam mint. After pouring the accumulated stout from the
pan, reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees and roast the duck for another hour.
Remove the duck from the oven and place on a platter. Separate the stout from the
juices and slowly stir the gooseberry jam and the shredded mint into the
latter. Simmer this over a low heat for a few minutes, stirring continually.
Return the oven heat to 450 degrees and after brushing the duck with some of
the mixture return it to the oven for up to 15 minutes or until the duck is
well glazed. Remove the duck and let it stand for about 10 minutes before
attempting to carve. Mix the remaining sauce with the new pan juices and pour
into a serving container. Garnish the duck with the extra mint sprigs.

Mint is well-known for its soothing, cooling qualities,
but recent research has confirmed mint’s ability to enhance memory,
concentration and alertness, especially if inhaled. Mint therefore makes the
ideal car freshener, for it will dispel stale, unpleasant odors while
increasing the alertness of the driver.

I am indebted to Kathleen
Gips of the Village Herb Shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio for this brilliant recipe

Cinnamint Herbal Auto Refresher

1/3 cup of dried, cut
2 Tbsp. dried whole mint
leaves (preferably peppermint)
1 Tbsp. broken cinnamon
1 Tbsp. non-clumping
kitty litter mixed with 1 tsp. spearmint oil and 10 drops of cinnamon oil.

Age the mixture for one week in a closed container.
Package in small fabric bags with hangtags. These can be hung from the car’s
rear view mirror, strapped to the sun visor or placed anywhere in the car.
Squeeze the bag occasionally to release the fragrance

The above recipe will make many bags, depending upon
their size (a business card-sized bag is best). Sell them or give them to your
friends. They make fantastic gifts.

Bruce Burnett is an award-winning writer, a chartered herbalist and author of HerbWise: growing cooking wellbeing. Bruce and his wife Delaine own Olivia’s Fashion, Furnishings & Gifts ( olivias.ca/ olivias.ca/) in Ladysmith, BC Canada. Read more published articles by Bruce Burnett on his websites: bruceburnett.ca/ bruceburnett.ca/ and herbalcuisine.com/ herbalcuisine.com/

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