Minty Fresh for Summer
Few herbs are as well recognized as mint. Mint has been used as a remedy for freshening the breath, improving digestion, relieving headaches, reducing fevers, and minimizing congestion from sinus troubles since antiquity throughout the world. This herbal infusion has remained a staple for tea purveyors. Mint teas, most popularly made with peppermint or spearmint, continue to have a most devoted following.
Mint, a rather large botanical family that includes about 25 species, derives its name from a Greek myth. Menthe was a nymph who caught Pluto's eye. Pluto's wife Persephone was irritated by his wandering eye and turned the object of his desire into a homely weed. Pluto could not reverse the enchantment and responded by giving the plant a sweet smell whenever the leaf was broken to tantalize the senses. Mint was also used as an herbal remedy by the ancient civilizations in China, India, the Middle East, North Africa, and tribes in North America.
This common herb can be a bane to gardeners because of its aggressive, rapidly spreading root system. The plants are perennials that grow between 1 - 3 feet (0.3 m - 1 m) tall depending on the varietal. The plants rapidly spread in the spring and produce small blooms between late June and August.
Peppermint (mentha piperita) and spearmint (mentha spicata) are the two varietals most commonly steeped types of mint. Spearmint has a milder flavor than that of peppermint. The "Nana" cultivar of spearmint is an essential ingredient in Touareg tea served in Morocco and other areas throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Touareg tea is prepared ceremonially for guests by the head of the family. Traditionally three cups are offered of this strong mint tea composed of spearmint, gunpowder green tea, and generous quantities of sugar in beautifully painted small glasses. Drinking this infusion is also said to settle the mind and bring calm.
Peppermint is actually a natural hybrid of spearmint and apple mint. The flavor is sweeter, peppery, and more potent than that of spearmint. It's natural sweet, perkiness brings peppermint about twice as many consumers as spearmint. Fresh peppermint leaves are often served with sweet iced tea in the Southeastern United States to add an extra twist to this cooling crowd pleaser.
Also found in gum, breath fresheners, toothpaste, and mouthwash, it is easy to see why it these varietals are correlated with freshening breath and improving digestion. Indeed those are only two benefits attributed to mint. Peppermint has a calming and anesthetizing quality that also makes it useful for treating minor skin irritations, relieving anxiety, and alleviating minor headaches.
Dried mint should be stored in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry place. Leaves will retain their potency under these conditions for nine to twelve months.
Moroccan Mint Tea
4 tsp gunpowder green tea leaves
4 tsp spearmint leaves
4 tsp sugar crystals
4 cups of boiling water
Fresh Mint Sprigs if desired
Pre-heat teapot. Steep combined gunpowder, spearmint leaves, and fresh mint(if desired) for 4 minutes. Add sugar. Serve hot or over ice.