A few weeks ago I was making the rounds at my local farmers market where I happened to pick up a bouquet of mint leaves, ripe from the garden.
I decided to try my hand at making a summer mint tea, so I chopped them up and let them steep in hot water for 15 minutes. I drained the leaves and put the tea in the refrigerator. To my utmost surprise, it was one of the most soothing and refreshing drinks I have ever had, a true summer delight for the senses.
Mint has been used for thousands of years by cultures around the world. The ancient Hebrews used it for tithing and would sprinkle it on the floor of their synagogs to create a distinctive aroma when they walked over it.
Mint is particularly popular in the Middle East, India and Europe. In Morocco, mint tea has become interwoven into the entire culture. It is a symbol of hospitality. “There’s even a proverb that is said to describe the tea time experience: ‘The first glass is as gentle as life, the second is as strong as love, and the third is as bitter as death.’ (Try The World, The Moroccan Mint Tea Custom)
Mint has made it’s way into the cuisine of people all over the world. The Greeks and Turks use it often in yogurt based dressings, jellies, traditional dolmas and even cheese. In India, mint is an important seasoning which is often served with curries and vindaloos. In Vietnamese dishes mint is used in spring rolls and in broth for different soup combinations.
So why is mint so widely used? It turns out that the herb has some valuable medicinal properties: It has been revered for centuries for it’s ability to sooth upset stomachs and intestinal irritations; It is also known to help relieve nasal congestion that comes with asthma and seasonal allergy symptoms; it’s been used for weight loss, relieving headaches, for oral health, a remedy for nausea and even to treat and help prevent cancer.
With all the health benefits abiding in this herb, it makes good sense to start using it creatively in our home cooking. Let me suggest trying it first as a tea. The menthol oil which is released during the infusion of hot water will delight not only your sense of smell but your tastebuds as well. It is also a great thing to serve to guests on a hot summer day. As they say in Spain, Salud! (“To your health“).
References: World Tea News, A 2 Z of Health, Beauty & Fitness, IHANEWS, Organic Facts, 13 Impressive Health Benefits of Mint.