By Amy Jeanroy, Herb Gardens Expert
What Is Peppermint Used For?
Peppermint, (M. Piperita), is a wandering, invasive herb with a deep purple, square stem and deep green leaves. The undersides of the leaves are purple as well. This is a common and fast growing mint that makes a great tea. Easily recognisable, the taste of peppermint is refreshing and cooling on a hot summer day. It is also soothing to an upset stomach, due to the menthol it contains.The menthol in peppermint soothes the lining of the digestive tract an stimulates the production of bile, which is an essential digestive fluid. A hot cup of herbal tea is an excellent way to settle your stomach after a big meal.
Peppermint is the flavoring of choice for toothpaste as it is an excellent breath freshener. When using peppermint tea as a breath freshener, increase the effectiveness by adding a pinch of anise, caraway or cinnamon. Menthol vapors are famous for relieving nasal, sinus and chest congestion. For a more effective cold remedy, combine peppermint with elder flower and yarrow.
Herb Garden: Peppermint
For a hacking cough, drink 3 to four cups of cool peppermint tea throughout the day, taking a sip every 15 to 30 minutes.
How To Grow Peppermint
Peppermint can overtake a garden bed so grow it either in its own pot or bury a pot to the rim in the soil to keep the roots contained. Like most mints, peppermint likes moist, rich soil and full sun. It can grown in partial sun though, so consider it in an area that may not grow much else due to the lack of sunlight. Unlike many other mints that grow from seed,
true peppermint grows from cuttings. Stems can be cut and placed in water until they grow roots. These new cuttings will grow new, healthy plants. Often, what is marked as peppermint is just a variety of mint because mints are so easily cross pollinated. Buy true peppermint from reputable growers and see that it is labeled M. Piperita This I didn't know so this is interesting.
Here is a recipe for chocolate and mint together now doesn't that sound good....
Chocolate mint denotes both the flavor and the mint variety used in this recipe for homemade chocolate mint syrup. If you don't have access to chocolate mint, it is common to use spearmint in culinary creations. Peppermint may be substituted but can carry a flavor too intense for cooking; use with reservation.
Mint is a convenient and delicious way to add benefits to any sugary creation. Mint is largely known for helping ease digestion discomfort. Through out history we largely see mint being used in magic and medicine and not for culinary use.
But have no fear, this minty chocolatey concoction is nothing less than magical in taste!
Try this syrup in milk or to flavor coffee, as a dessert sauce for cake or ice cream, or over fresh fruit.
•1/2 cup cocoa powder
•3/4 cup cold water
•3/4 cup sugar
•30 chocolate mint leaves, rinsed, patted dry, and torn into pieces (You may substitute plain mint).
In a small saucepan, combine the cocoa powder and cold water, and whisk together until smooth.
Without putting over heat, add the sugar and torn mint leaves to the cocoa and water mixture.
Now place the saucepan over medium heat.
Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly to melt the sugar. As soon as the syrup begins to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. The mixture should begins to thicken in texture and have a glossy tint.
Be careful as to not burn the mixture.
Once simmered to a thick consistency, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
When the syrup has cooled to near room temperature it is ready to be strained.
Use a fine mesh sieve to strain the syrup into a clean glass jar, carefully to remove any ingredients that may have clumped during the heating and cooling process. If you do not have a sieve or want the authentic taste of an inconsistent texture, simply skip this process.
Lastly, cover the jar and store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. If the sugar starts to crystallize it may be time to make a new batch. To make it last simply reheat before using.
When ready to use drizzle over your favorite desserts, make your traditional hot chocolates with a twist or simply add to your baked goods for a minty surprise.
Other variations of the recipe include adding citrus zest such as orange or lime. Chili powder such as ancho or aleppo can also add a different acidic and spicy flavor to the chocolate. Salt can also be garnished on top of the drizzle for a sweet tangy taste. For example, drizzle the syrup on icecream and sprinkle a smidgen of salt on top!
Taken from http://herbgardens.about.com/od/herbrecipes/tp/Top-5-Herbs-For-Holiday-Cooking.htm
Till next time, this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty, Iowa