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Minty Fresh

Kate Hamilton May 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

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Mint has been used as a medicinal cure for common ailments such as headaches, heartburn, indigestion, gas and sleeping problems since the Greeks added the plant to their bathing rituals. Known for their sweet flavor and cool aftertaste, these fragrant plants are some of the most popular herbs used in American cuisine. Mint leaves can be found in teas, jellies, candies and ice creams. Mint also is used in skin care products and is a component of many pharmaceuticals.

Facts

Mint is a perennial herb in the Lamiaceae family, and is used as a flavoring or scent. Traditionally, herbs with fragrant leaves are termed mint and include other cooking plants such as rosemary, sage, oregano and basil. The aroma comes from menthol found in hairlike oil glands on the leaves and stems. The most common and popular mints are peppermint and spearmint. Most contain vitamins B-1 and B-2, carotenes, calcium, iron and phosphorus.

In the kitchen

Mint’s flavorful taste initially was used by the ancient Greeks as a digestive aid; a treatment for colds, coughs and fevers; and a food flavor. Spearmint and peppermint sprigs can be added to drinks and fruit dishes as a garnish, or made into a refreshing tea. Mint commonly is used in Middle Eastern cuisine, complements lamb and pairs well with chocolate. Potosi Hot Springs Resort in Pony, Montana, features Minted Grilled Lamb Chops, and also flavors its water with mint sprigs and lemon wedges. Whip up some Ginger Citrus Honey Mint Dressing from The Noosa Spa at the South Pacific Resort in Noosaville, Australia, which has a zesty sweet taste that’s great on salads, new potatoes or muesli—a healthy, all-natural cereal made of whole oats, dried fruit and nuts. Or create a delicious Apple-Mint Salad like the one served at Gold Lake Mountain Resort and Spa in Ward, Colorado. See also Mint, Melon, Cucumber Salsa on Salmon, courtesy of The Heartland Spa in Gilman, Illinois.

In the spa

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Quick Facts: Mint

• There are 15 common varieties of mint.

• Wintergreen frequently is mistaken for a mint plant, but is actually an oily chemical called methyl salicylate that is extracted from different plants.

• According to Greek mythology, the mint plant originated from a beautiful water nymph named Minthe who attracted the attention of Hades, the ruler of the underworld.

• During the Middle Ages, mint leaves were ground into a powder and used to whiten teeth.

• In Central America, the plant is known as yerba buena, meaning “good herb.”

Recipe: Mint, Melon, Cucumber Salsa on Salmon

From Executive Chef Barb Peters at The Heartland Spa in Gilman, Illinois

Makes 8 servings

2 cups honeydew melon

2 cups cucumber

4 teaspoons mint

4 teaspoons olive oil

1 pinch red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

32 ounces salmon

6 cups couscous, cooked

mint sprigs and diced tomatoes to garnish

1. Seed and dice the melon and cucumber. Try to make all the pieces the same size—about 1/4”.

2. Chop fresh mint into chiffonade, or thinly sliced strips.

3. Combine melon, cucumber, mint, oil, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Grill salmon steaks.

5. Serve salmon steaks on a bed of couscous, covered with the salsa mixture, and garnish with mint sprigs and diced tomatoes.

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