If you think of mint as the parsley of desserts—a bit of green on a plate, but not a full ingredient in much—it’s time to take a broader view. Mint, in all its cooling intensity, adds a layer of flavor in sweet and savory dishes unlike any other herb.
Buying & Storing Mint
Look for mint with bright, fully green leaves. Mint with wilted and browning leaves tends to taste wilted and brown, so it’s better to move along. Once home, if you’re going to use it within a day or two, keep it loosely wrapped in plastic in the fridge or it in a vase of water like a bunch of flowers (just keep it out of direct sunlight). For longer storage, roll up the stems in a layer of paper towels before putting them in plastic—the paper will absorb excess moisture and extend the life of the leaves.
Bursts of Mint
Mint makes an excellent condiment. One would think that cramming 4 cups of mint leaves into less than 1 cup of paste would yield an overpowering sauce that was impossible to eat. In fact, the mint maintains its freshness in this lovely Mint Pesto. It keeps its flavor in this Mango Mint Salsa as well, making it perfect with grilled shrimp and other seafood. For a sweeter take, try Blueberry Mint Jam.
Sort of sweet but intended as a savory, this Melon & Mint Soup (Sopa de Melão) is a refreshing way to start a meal. Similarly, Spring Pea and Mint Crostini are as light and colorful as a spring afternoon. Mints bring the strong flavors in this Salad of Blood Orange, Fennel & Radicchio together.
Mains With Mint
As it goes with lemon, mint also goes with garlic, as shown in the easy vegetarian dinner that is these Zucchini Noodles With Fava Beans, Mint, And Garlic. It also at once tempers and highlights spicy kick, as shown by Samosa Pies with Cilantro-Mint Chutney. Mint also counters the meaty richness of beef in a Cheeseburger with Yogurt Mint Sauce.
Cooling Mint Desserts
Mint has natural cooling power, so why not harness it in frozen desserts when things heat up? Mint Gelato is a beautiful pale green, as is Fresh Mint Ice Cream. Both use fresh mint for their bright, fresh flavor. Meanwhile, Grapefruit Mint Popsicles are a pretty shade of pale pink shot through with bursts of fresh mint leaves. These Blueberry Mint Paletas are a surprisingly robin’s egg blue.
Mint’s cooling power is doubled up with that of cucumber in this Mint, Melon & Cucumber Smoothie. Mint and lemon are a classic combination, as in this Sparkling Mint Lemonade, which easily becomes an adult beverage with a splash of vodka or rum in a serving. For a full-on (and powerful) cocktail, try a classic Mint Julep. Or make Moroccan Mint Tea with fresh leaves.
Mint is easy to grow—too easy, some would say. If you live somewhere without a reliable and deep frost, think twice about planting mint in the ground, since it can spread like nobody’s business. But it doesn’t seem to mind being contained within a pot—either on a small one on a windowsill or a big one on a deck—and it tolerates shade better than most plants.