by Buck Buchanan // April - May - June 2021

Mint. There are more than 7,500 types of it. It’s a very popular plant, as well as a popular flavoring – peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, lemon mint, globe mint, and more. Most are easy to plant, very hardy, and self-propagating (meaning that they will grow more plants on their own). With that said, mint will take over wherever it is planted. While I am not a horticulturist, I do grow plenty of this plant. If you are looking to cultivate mint around here, you may want to touch base with the Wake Forest Garden Club (wfgardenclub.org/contact). I am sure they can help you more than I can.

Why am I talking about mint, you ask? Because this treat’s bright flavor and invigorating scent adds the perfectly refreshing accompaniment to a delicious spring menu.

Mint’s culinary uses run the gamut from appetizers to desserts to garnishes to sauces to beverages. It is delicious when served fresh and is easy to preserve for future enjoyment as well. Toss onto a fruit salad for an added pop of flavor. Or if you happen to be a northern transplant, perhaps top a leg of lamb with mint jelly (not my favorite, but I’m not judging if that’s your cup of tea). Why not give a cool mint julep or a mojito a whirl on a nice warm spring evening?

If the many varieties, ease of growth, and culinary uses weren’t enough, you’ll be happy to know that mint is good for you! Let me start with the obvious … mint stops bad breath in its tracks. Sure, it’s not a cure – but chew a leaf and those stolen kisses will surely be returned. Also, it’s high in vitamin A, iron, manganese, and folate, and its antioxidants help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. In addition, mint also aids in digestion, as it has been proven to contain menthol (go figure) which relieves the symptoms of stomach pains, gas, bloating, and bowel problems (all part of irritable bowel syndrome). Not to mention, it relaxes the muscles of the digestive tract.

The aroma of mint is one of its biggest pluses. I love to walk by and run my hand across a mint plant. I also plant a low-growing variety among the grass in my yard so that when I mow, the scent of my lawn is most pleasing. The smell is good for mental health and improves the memory. For those of you with “spirited” children, mint increases alertness and decreases frustration, anxiety, and fatigue. Remember, I am a chef, not a doctor, so don’t quit taking your medications and start sniffing or eating mint. And certainly don’t start smoking it!

This spring, make the most of all that mint has to offer – use that green thumb of yours and grow your own, or pick some up at your favorite grocery store or local farmers market. Either way, the many flavors of mint provide the perfect ingredient for the perfectly refreshing springtime recipe.

Mint Syrup
– 1 cup filtered water
– 1 cup sugar
– 1 cup fresh mint leaves

Combine water, sugar, and mint leaves in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer for one minute. Remove from heat and let syrup steep for 30 minutes. Pour into a sterilized jar through a strainer and let cool. Store in refrigerator until use.

Mint Extract
– 1 cup mint leaves
– 1 cup 100 proof Everclear

Mix mint leaves with Everclear in a sterilized jar (make sure all the leaves are covered). Place the jar in a sunny spot and let steep for at least a month. Strain and store until needed.

Mint Julep
– 4 mint leaves
– ¼ ounce mint syrup
– 2 ounces bourbon

In a rocks glass, muddle mint leaves in the mint syrup, add bourbon, and pack with crushed ice. Stir and garnish with a mint leaf.

Mint Brownie Sundae
– Use your favorite brownie recipe or boxed brownie mix
– 3 tablespoons mint extract
– Vanilla ice cream*
– Hot fudge
– Whipped cream

Add mint extract to your brownie recipe and bake as instructed. Let cool (but not too much, since a warm brownie is awesome). Place a scoop of vanilla ice cream atop, smother with hot fudge, add a dollop of whipped cream, and garnish with a sprig of mint. You can find my recipes for hot fudge and whipped cream in past issues of CIRCA Magazine, available online at circamagazine.com.

* Visit Lumpy’s Ice Cream for fresh vanilla ice cream, and their many other unique, fresh, all-natural flavors. You can also find Lumpy’s online at lumpysicecream.com, on Facebook (LumpysIceCream), and on Instagram (thelumpysicecream)

Buck Buchanan

Owner of Lumpy's Ice Cream. Lumpy's uses the finest local ingredients and crafts them into ice cream without any preservatives, additives, or synthetic hormones.