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A Quick Mint Harvest

(20 Minute Jim) Following my new mantra, I got up this morning and harvested a paper bag full of mint before coffee and even before the dew was off the lawn. Yes, yes, yes – technically this is a case of “do what I say, don’t do what I do” because it’s best to wait until the dew dries before touching plants. It’s just too easy to transmit soil-borne diseases to the leaves where the dew can help them stick and help them grow. In the cool of the morning, feel free to take walks through the garden, to appreciate the new wonders and perhaps to map out the work you’ll accomplish later. Just don’t get dirty until things dry off.

Unless you’re deliberately trying to kill off something, say, like a rogue patch of mint. A few roots of mint and another few of lemon balm escaped when I “transplanted” the major planting a year or two back to make room for more asparagus. I say “transplanted” because I’d kept the mint growing in a bucket that I cleverly submerged in the soil with the intent to KEEP it from spreading. Silly human. Now there’s a luxurious patch of mint and lemon balm underneath the asparagus right near the rhubarb.

I’m almost ready to play along with this spontaneous grouping, at least for a bit. This trio of the tall ferns of the asparagus, the broad elephant-ear leaves of the rhubarb and the wily opportunistic shoots of the mints seems like a good match of height, leaf and growth habit. After these three are done sucking up the sunlight, I bet there will be very little left for any weeds to grow. But at the moment, there are lots of weeds mixed in and to get at the weeds, I had to harvest some mint.

I used normal kitchen scissors – don’t let 20Mintue Jan know, OK? – and I dropped the sprigs cut end down in a standard paper grocery bag. The kind of bag I used had handles which will be handy to hang for drying. Paper bags are best because they’re porous and will allow the leaves to dry without molding and they’re also opaque. A weird thing I learned about mint is that it must be dried in the dark or the leaves will turn black. They’ll still taste and smell like mint but they’ll be black instead of green. I snipped for 20 minutes and then retired back inside for coffee.

Looking at that bag of fresh mint reminds me of my mother. She was always so eager to make everything into a celebration. I remember growing up she’d take a deep breath of air on a particularly beautiful day and say, “We should be sipping mint juleps on a porch somewhere.” So after Jan and I were married, one day when my Mom and Dad had helped us all day painting and working around the house, we told them to have a seat out on the porch, that we’d be out in a minute. Jan and I had researched the recipe for authentic mint juleps – which are basically sugar, mint… and bourbon! – and we made some for Mom and Dad. One sip and Mom’s eyes nearly popped from her head. She was a life-long teetotaler and had NO idea what actually went into a mint julep. They appreciated the gesture, I think, but Mom never spoke about mint juleps again.

Mint Julep
for each serving…

4 sprigs of mint
1 teaspoon
finely crushed ice
1-1/2 jiggers

1. In a 12-ounce highball glass or tankard (perferably silver or aluminum), place 3 sprigs of mint and sugar. Crush mint with muddler or handle of wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes.
2. Fill glass to brim with ice; pour in bourbon; don’t stir. Add more ice to fill glass. Set in freezer.
3. Just before serving: Garnish with mint sprig. Serve with long straw.

Posted in • Cooking, • Growing.

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2 Responses

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  1. Sandy B says

    4 sprigs of mint isn’t much! My mint took over an old flower bed– I could make dozens of mint juleps!

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Mint Bonanza and the Resulting Tabbouleh | Our Twenty Minute Kitchen Garden linked to this post on June 24, 2010

    […] mint that escaped its pot is thriving indeed. It has plans, perhaps, of taking over the whole bed, and possibly the whole […]