We were sufficiently fortunate to have escaped a harsh winter without leaving town. Which makes having to wait for spring not one jot more amenable. Other than a mild yellowing of forsythia and an occasional daffodil, our impatience seems to be the only thing flowering so far. Oh, there must be millions of the blade-like leaves of daffodil, iris and tulip inching their way skyward. Walls of forsythia canes are yellowing in preparation. Dozens of fat, red bud peony noses poke themselves out of the ground. Promises. Promises.
Then suddenly our world is transformed and everywhere you look there are millions of shades of green waving cheerful blossoms. Fresh perennial herbs like mint appear overnight to shake up bored taste buds. A single whiff of mint creates fantasies of mint juleps or iced tea on lazy hot afternoons while seated, preferably, on a porch swing. Mint is synonymous with refreshing. There are hundreds of flavorful varieties though all can claim common ancestry. Biologists would have you believe that it originated in Turkey and the Balkan Peninsula and naturalized themselves throughout Europe and Asia. Mythologists have another tale to tell. Hades, master of the underworld, kidnapped and wed the unwilling Persephone leaving her imprisoned in his domain for six months of every year. Hades, though, had a roving eye. Soon he was pursuing a river nymph called Menthe. Being caught, flattered, young and unwise, Menthe was heard to utter various disparaging remarks about Persephone, who promptly turned her into the herb mint.
Closer to home, mint has been a culinary and medicinal staple for centuries. Uncontained, it can readily become an unwanted weed. It was used to flavor teeth cleaning compounds as early as the 14th C. In the 16th C the scent of mint was touted for its ability to “rejoice the hearts of men” and strewn around the castle dining room floor. In our own times, a mid-state New York dairy kicked off an annual regional tradition by producing Mint Milk, which I would drink just because it is so beautiful.
Mint teas were once popular just because the authorities had neglected to tax them. Now they are popular simply because they are invigorating. Liquors are not as prevalent as they once were, but you can turn a plain scoop of vanilla ice cream into a beautiful, Queen-worthy dessert by drizzling Crème de Menthe over it. On the website you will find many recipes for mint, including Shrimp with Mint, Bacon and Chiles, Pea Soup with Mint and Sugar Snap Peas and Black Quinoa with Feta and Mint. Today we’re offering the classic combination of mint and chocolate in our flourless Chocolate Peppermint Flourless Torte.