Mint ranks among the most persistent of culinary herbs, capable of taking over a backyard bed if left unchecked.
How fortunate, then, that it's also among the most useful in the kitchen. Gathered in the wild or cultivated, mint is used widely across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, for everything from appetizers to entrees, beverages to dessert.
Mint chutney lifts Indian samosas, adds aromatic essence to stewed Greek green beans and brings brightness to Mexican fruit salads. Mint tea greets visitors to Moroccan homes, gives herbal depth to Thai grilled beef salads, and adds a verdant note to Cuban cocktails. It is especially prized as a partner to lamb, tomatoes and chocolate.
Plant scientists have ?developed mint into its own section of the ?herb garden, offering orange, chocolate and apple varieties, but the most common are assertive peppermint and subtler spearmint.
A bunch of mint can be ?kept in the refrigerator for a week, its roots in a glass of water and leaves covered ?with a plastic bag. Plentiful mint can be gathered in bunches and hung to dry before being stored in an airtight container.
Herbal history: The fragrant breath of mint has greeted visitors for millennia, as a symbol of hospitality. Greek mythology linked mint's origins to the nymph Mentha, transformed into the herb ?after making Pluto's wife Persephone jealous.
Here, a mint syrup can intensify the flavor of a mojito, the classic Cuban cocktail. Mojito fans often make simple syrup by boiling equal parts water and sugar, to sidestep the onerous process of dissolving sugar in the bottom of a tall glass.
Fresh mint sprigs
1 teaspoon sugar, or more to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 ounce ( 1/3 cup) dry white rum
2 ounces ( 1/4 cup) club soda or seltzer
Put a few sprigs of mint in glass. Add sugar. Muddle with blunt instrument to bruise mint.
Add soda, lime juice and rum. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add ice. Garnish with more mint, if desired.
Mint-lime simple syrup
1 cup mint leaves, packed
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon lime zest (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (optional)
Add mint and sugar to small saucepan. ?Muddle to bruise mint. Add water. Simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. Add lime juice and zest, if using. Strain.Can be used in place of sugar for mojitos, or simmered another 10 minutes to thicken, to be drizzled over watermelon, peaches or other fresh fruit.