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Get to Know Mint

Native to the Eastern Mediterranean, mint or Mentha belongs to the Lamiaceae family, which contains around 15 to 20 plant species, including peppermint and spearmint. It’s a popular herb that people can use fresh or dried in many dishes and infusions.

Mint plants are very easy to grow. They enjoy damp soil and most tolerate a bit of shade, so they can be grown indoors. Most mints are perennials. When planted in a good location, they’ll return year after year.

Although not typically consumed in large quantities, mint contains fair amounts of several nutrients and is an especially good source of vitamin A and antioxidants.

Store fresh mint in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel.

Spearmint and peppermint are the most popular varieties of mint, with spearmint being used in cooking and the stronger peppermint commonly processed into an oil that’s used as a flavoring. You can also find other varieties of mint with interesting flavors such as apple mint, orange mint, and chocolate mint!

Fresh mint produces a lingering cooling effect on the palate. It’s widely used in Middle Eastern and Greek dishes, including salads, side dishes, and sauces. Fresh mint traditionally complements lamb and poultry. A small stalk of mint can be added to hot water to make tea or muddled into a cocktail. Dried mint leaves are often added to ground beef or stews. Mint extract is used in baked goods or confections, or to flavor hot chocolate.

Minty Melon Salad

Melon wedges are a staple in most homes, usually reserved for dessert or as a snack on a hot summer day. This recipe will make you appreciate the fruit in a whole new light! It makes a great side to grilled fish for a light weeknight meal.


  • 12 each cantaloupe, honeydew, and baby watermelon, peeled and sliced into thin wedges, chilled (or any combination of your choice)
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 14 tsp chili powder, or to taste (see note)
  • 14 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • handful of fresh mint leaves, torn (washed and checked for bugs)

Spread the melon on a platter and top with crumbled feta cheese. Sprinkle the chili powder on top. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice and honey and drizzle over the platter. Top with torn mint leaves. Serve immediately. Note: Most commercial chili powder includes a blend of dried chilies, cumin, and oregano. Look for a pure, mild chili powder, such as ancho or chipotle chili.

Did you know?

Mint is popularly used in the refreshing Israeli drink, Limonana. To make your own, dissolve ½ cup sugar in ½ cup hot water and allow to cool. Add to a blender with ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, a handful of fresh mint leaves, and plenty of ice. Blend until slushy.

(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 697)

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