Mint has long added its bright flavor and scent to drinks and dishes, especially in Balkan and Middle Eastern cuisines. The fresh or dried leaves are used as an ingredient, while the essential oil is extracted as a flavouring and scent. The young leaves are continuously harvested from spring through fall, but mint can also be grown indoors and so is available year-round. Mint is used in a variety of delicious baked treats, savoury sauces, and drinks, from hot mint tea to cool mint juleps and mojitos.
What Is Mint?
Mint is an aromatic herb produced by various species of the mint plant (Mentha). Native to the eastern Mediterranean, mint gets its name from a mythic nymph named Minthe (Mintho). Jealous Persephone turned her into a lowly mint plant after she had an affair with Pluto, the god of the underworld. The mint plant is common and a favourite of many gardeners, so it’s easy to grow your own. As a herb, it is gluten-free and suitable for vegan, vegetarian, and paleo diets.
Spearmint and curly mint are the varieties most often grown to use as a herb in cooking and beverages. Peppermint is a little too strong to use fresh for most culinary purposes. Instead, it is grown and processed into peppermint oil, which is then used as a flavouring, and it can be further refined into a menthol.
You can find other varieties of mint that have interesting flavours and aromas. Apple mint has an apple scent; orange mint has a citrus flavour; chocolate mint has a bit of chocolate taste.