In my post a few days ago “What I Got From Them”, I explained how I began to grow interested in the subject of gardening several years ago.
What follows is a bit of my knowledge concerning the herbs I grow.
Mint is one of the easiest of the herbs for the beginning gardener. It will grow in all kinds of soil and will tolerate a variety of lighting conditions. It spreads fast and the wise gardener dedicates a spot in his garden for mint that he doesn’t mind having taken over. The stand of mint in the picture above is two years old and started out as five plants: three small Austrian spearmint and two applemint stems I had moved when we added the addition. I am currently hemming it in with Mexican saw grass. It is holding its own nicely against that weed (and I ain’t never met nothin that could stand up to saw grass).
I grow two varieties of mint currently:
Applemint is mild and sweet as mints go. I like it better for jellies than the spearmint because of its gentler taste. It can be told apart from the spearmint because of its size (usually grows to about 2 feet in height) and its broad round leaves.
Austrian spearmint has a bright bold flavor bordering on being spicy. It is great in teas. It can be differentiated from the applemint because its stocks grow shorter and thinner. Its leaves are narrow and much darker green .
Mint has a variety of uses both medicinally and as a culinary herb.
Medicinally mint has been used for stomach ailments for millenia. Simply make a tea out of the dried leaves (a tablespoon of leaves steeped in hot water for seven to ten minutes) and drink. Mint tea will aid with stomach cramps, flatulence, and even menstrual cramps.
Mint oil has been used to help with swelling from arthritis and an herbal mixture of mint and rosemary is even used to combat dandruff. For more information on making herbal oils or teas go to www.gardensablaze.com
I like to dry the herb and bottle it for use throughout the winter as a tea. To dry the herb, cut the stem about a third of the way down ( don’t cut it to far down or you will lose the perennial stem). Then bind it together with the other stems you have cut and hang them upside down in a cool dry place. When the leaves are dry they will turn a grey/green and crumble at the touch. Place these in a dry airtight container and keep in the dark until use.
I have also made mint jelly using my herbs. It is a great condiment for lamb or even pot roast. Mid winter I have even been known to spread it on toast with butter. Below is my recipe. Enjoy!
- 1 1/2 cups packed fresh mint leaves and stems
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 1/4 cups boiling water
- 1 drop green food color
- 3 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1/2 (6 fluid ounce) liquid pectin
- Rinse off the mint leaves, and place them into a large saucepan. Crush with a potato masher or the bottom of a jar or glass. Add water, and bring the mint to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 10 minutes. Strain, and measure out 1 2/3 cups of the mint.
- Place 1 2/3 cups mint into a saucepan. Stir in the lemon juice and food coloring. Mix in the sugar, and place the pan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once the mixture is boiling, stir in the pectin. Boil the mixture for a full minute while stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and skim foam off the top using a large metal spoon. Transfer the mixture to hot sterile jars, and seal.
- Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2 inch space between the jars. Pour in more boiling water if necessary until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and process for 10 minutes.
Just a quick note with herbal jellies never try to sub the powdered pectin for the liquid. The jelly won’t gel as well.