Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mint: Another essential Armenian flavor

Next to basil, and dark chocolate, mint is one of my favorite flavors.

It tastes great, smells fabulous and has many uses.

Spearmint and peppermint are used as digestive aids. In addition, the oils of some varieties are used to flavor drinks, chewing gum, sweets, toothpaste, soaps, and mouthwash.

Armenians use mint to flavor meats, soups and salads. It's also a traditional ingredient in Armenian folk medicines. Many grow mint just for the pleasure of picking a handful of leaves to chew -- a delightful way to cool the tongue on a hot summer evening!

Growing mint is pretty easy in most places. It spreads quickly, so be ready to pick. Don’t worry if you end up with more fresh mint than you can use; mint is easy to dry (see microwave method below) and store.

Another great quality of mint is that when dried, it retains its flavor, unlike some other herbs such as dried parsley and dried cilantro.

Washing mint leaves
Don’t wash fresh mint leaves until you are ready to use them. When you’re ready, here’s what to do: Wash the mint under cold running water while the leaves are still on the stem. Drain thoroughly on paper towels.

To store fresh mint:
Place stems in a glass of water in the refrigerator or on the kitchen counter. Change the water every day or so.

Drying mint
The traditional method is to tie a small bunch of mint stems together
very tightly, then hang the bunch upside down in a dark, warm (70-80°F), well-ventilated, area that’s free of dust. When the leaves are dry and crumbly, they’re ready. This process takes about one to two weeks.

Oven drying
Place the leaves on a baking sheet that has 1 inch sides all around. Preheat the oven to 175°F. With the oven door ajar, bake the leaves for 2 to 4 hours. Be sure to check periodically.

Microwave drying: (Short-cut version)
Wash and thoroughly dry the mint leaves. Place the leaves on a microwave-safe dish that’s lined with paper towels. Don’t crowd the dish with too many leaves; dry in small batches. Microwave for one to three minutes, mixing every 30 seconds. Leaves should be dry and crumbly - not
burned!

To store dried mint
Before storing, you must be sure the mint is completely dried or it will become moldy. Store in airtight containers in a cool, dry place.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Folks,

    I found an article on Armenian Flat Bread stuffed with herbs (jengyalov hatz). As an expert in growing herbs in the Southwest USA desert I was very interested in the ingredients. I cannot find a translation for carmantyuc (kndzmdzuk), which is described in recipes as indespensible. Can you identify with the latin or English name? The recipes sound so wonderful. Thank you for your time.

    ReplyDelete