Cool & Refreshing Mint
Mint originated in Asia and the Mediterranean area and has been used for aromatic, medicinal and culinary purposes for centuries. Mint was first introduced in the United States during the 1600's, and currently, 70% of the world's peppermint and spearmint, are produced in the U.S. The cool, refreshing taste and tingling sensation that mint provides comes from the organic compound menthol, found within the mint plant.
Although mint is available year-round, the flavor is optimal during the summer season. When purchasing mint, look for vibrant green, firm leaves free of 'rust' spots and discoloration. Mint leaves can be used either dried or fresh. Fresh leaves provide a stronger flavor and should be refrigerated in plastic bags for up to 10 days. For optimal freshness, wrap the leaves in a damp paper towel prior to refrigeration. To dry mint, either lay a thin layer of leaves on paper towels, or hang in bundles and store in a cool, dry, dark place.
Mint leaves not only taste delicious, but are also nutritious. Spearmint and peppermint are packed with vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A and C. Mint is also a good source of several essential minerals, including magnesium, copper, iron, potassium, and calcium.
Mint has been used in the treatment of gastrointestinal discomfort and diseases such as indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint, in particular, has a calming, soothing effect and is often used to aid in the relief of abdominal cramping, nausea, headaches, respiratory infections and fatigue.
Summer is the perfect time to experience this refreshing herb. Freeze mint leaves while making ice cubes to add flavor to any beverage. Make a minty salad dressing with fresh mint leaves, lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil, or add mint to marinades for meals cooked on the grill. You can also add a subtle taste to steamed vegetables by adding mint leaves to the water when cooking.
This article was submitted by Erika Breitfeller RD, CDN, Clinical Dietitian at the Allen Hospital.
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