Mint condition

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 August, 2008, 12:00am

Mint is grown year round but its clean menthol flavour and aroma, cooling qualities and vivid colour are best appreciated in the summer. There are many varieties of mint but supermarkets usually only offer spearmint and peppermint. When buying the herb, look for bright green leaves with no dark spots. Mint is most versatile when fresh; as with most soft-leafed herbs, it loses much of its flavour when dried or cooked.

Mint's refreshing properties are used in breath fresheners, mouthwash, toothpaste, confectionary, chewing gum and cough drops. It is used as a natural herb remedy for digestive problems, sleep disorders, nausea, joint inflammation and skin problems. It also works as an insect repellent.

Given the right conditions, mint is easy to grow; in fact, it is so easy it's considered as invasive as a weed because the roots will spread and take over a whole plant bed. It's best to contain the mint's growth in a large pot. Indoors, by a sunny kitchen window, would be a good spot, making it convenient as the leaves can be plucked as needed.

Fresh and dried mint is delicious when infused in hot water for a soothing tisane (if you like, sweeten it with a little honey). The fresh herb is used in cocktails such as the mojito and mint julep. It can also be mixed with vinegar and sugar to serve as an accompaniment to roast lamb. The leaves are delicious mixed into couscous and salads. Mint is usually part of the herb platters served in Vietnam, to be eaten with anything from fried spring rolls to grilled meat.