With its refreshing taste and sweet aroma, mint is one of the most common used spices both in Turkey and the world. A Mediterranean herb, mint is cultivated today in many places that have a mild climate. Even though it has many species depending on where it is cultivated, it comes under two main groups. One is garden mint used in cooking with a milder aroma and thinner leaves. The other with a sharp taste and thicker and darker leaves is used mostly in confectionery, chewing gum and toothpaste making.
Fresh or dried, what makes mint one of the most commonly used spices is its digestive characteristic. It is mixed with yoghurt and used in different dishes in Eastern cuisines just as in Turkish cuisine.
The most delicious time of mint is the phase right before it comes into blossom when aromatic oils reach to the top level. Whether it will be consumed fresh or dried, it is picked at this phase. Mint leaves are dried hanging upside down in a dry and airy place in bundles.
Mint’s unique aroma comes from menthol, which has a slight numbing effect. Garden mint has a soft, refreshing, sweet and sharp taste that leaves a lemon aroma in the background. When chewed, it leaves a slightly bitter, sharp, spicy and refreshing effect.
It blends with countless meals from meat to soups, from vegetables to desserts. However, dried mint and fresh mint can seldom substitute for another. Mint’s refreshing characteristic works very well with yoghurt. You can use both fresh and dried mint in various mezzes made with yoghurt, especially cacik/tzatziki. Having a higher aroma, dried mint is the main complementary of manti (Turkish dumplings) along with yoghurt.
Dried mint adds flavor to many kinds of soup such as yoghurt-based soups, lentil soup and vegetable soups. It is a must for stuffed grape leaves with olive oil. It works very well with garlic just as with yoghurt. When it is used with garlic and vegetables dishes made with tomato and tomato paste such as okra, eggplant, zucchini, it makes their taste much more intense.
Fresh mint has a short shelf life. If you want to use fresh mint, the best is to consume it in 2 days or grow your own mint in a pot. Dried mint is a better alternative that you can use for a longer time. Don’t forget to keep it in airtight glass jars to minimize the loss of aroma.
Mint blends very well with soups. After you cook your soup, before you turn off your stove, pour the mixture you make with stirring butter or olive oil with dried mint over your soup. You will see that it adds a unique flavor to your soup.
You can prepare refreshing ice tea with mint and lemon. Brew your usual black tea by adding a little bit of dry mint this time. Later, mix it with hot water, sliced lemons, a little lemon juice and honey in a pitcher; and cool off in the fridge. Add ice cubes when serving.
While freezing your ice cubes in the freezer, you can add a mint leave to each ice bar. Your ice cubes will look nice and add mint flavor to your drinks.