Minty Fresh!

Just in case you didn’t get enough chocolate in the run up to Valentine’s Day this week, take comfort in knowing that National Chocolate and Mint Day is just around the corner, February 19. And while we’ve dedicated lots of time and attention to our love of all things chocolate, we haven’t spent nearly as much time focused on yummy, refreshing mint.

Let’s rectify that oversight right now.

640px-Mint-leaves-2007Indigenous to Europe, the mint plant (pictured) is prolific, sending out runners underground and growing “like a weed” throughout many parts of the world (including our herb garden here in Iowa).

Peppermint and its extract have been used traditionally to aid digestion, and to relieve abdominal cramps and nausea. Recent scientific studies have shown that peppermint’s aroma enhances memory among test-taking students.

We have several different minty options for indulging your mint cravings, any time of year: Crushed Peppermint, Spearmint Leaf, and Peppermint Extract.

In its leafy form, mint (either peppermint or spearmint) is frequently used in teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, and ice creams. In Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking, mint leaves are used in lamb dishes. In British and American cuisines, mint is put to use in sauces (British) and in mint jelly (U.S., primarily in the south).

spearmint-leafWhere peppermint has a “warmer” mint flavor and is used in making candy and chocolate sauces, Spearmint Leaf ($5.60 for a 1/2 Cup jar – recipes here) has a clear, pungent, mild aroma, and is used in salads, meat and vegetable dishes, and in all sorts of drinks. Crushed Peppermint ($4.20 for a 1/2 Cup jar – recipes here) is the oldest, and we think, the most popular flavor for mint confectionery.

The more fitting choice to pair with chocolate, Peppermint (as Peppermint Extract) has a distinctive minty flavor and aroma.

Peppermint_ExtractPeppermint Extract is used in holiday cooking: ice cream, candy, cookies, cakes, baked goods. Peppermint is especially bracing when paired with chocolate [the darker, the better!]. Our peppermint extract is strong, so use just a little to flavor a whole batch of frosting or candy.

Try a drop of peppermint extract ($4.50  for a 2 oz bottle – recipes here) to flavor teas, or to enhance fruit salads. For something completely different, peppermint makes a surprisingly good accompaniment to savory dishes such as lamb, pork or poultry.

Extracts, whether vanilla, lemon, almond or another flavor, are made by mixing a concentrated flavor with alcohol. The alcohol burns off during cooking or baking, leaving behind only the desired flavor in your cooking.


Mint plant photo credit: By Kham Tran –