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A Powerful Plant

Cathy Christensen December 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
mint in a bowl

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The strong, distinct smell and taste of peppermint is something that has infused many childhoods. Whether it was the crisp flavor your mouth craved while wrestling with the plastic wrapper that encased your first candy cane of Christmas, or the round red-and-white disc the school nurse gave you to help cure your stomachache that may or may not have been real, peppermint is refreshing, familiar and welcome all at the same time. Kids aren’t the only ones who enjoy this distinct flavor and aroma. Every morning after I’m finished with my coffee, I pop a tiny white peppermint into my mouth to disintegrate the dreaded coffee breath and to help the caffeine in waking me up to go nonstop for yet another day.

In the kitchen

The peppermint plant grows in a number of countries, but it is native to Europe and Asia and is naturalized to North America, where it is grown in parts of Indiana, Michigan, New York and Ohio.1,2 The plant itself grows to about two feet tall and blooms between July and August, yielding fragrant leaves and flowers that are the source of the volatile oil featuring peppermint’s active component, menthol.1

Lending its distinctive flavor and aroma to many dishes, the plant is used in a variety of ways in the kitchen. One of the best known is in peppermint tea, which is composed of the plant’s dried leaves, and other cuisine offerings include desserts and refreshing beverages.1

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Quick Facts: Peppermint

  • Peppermint has been used to treat headaches, skin irritations, anxiety associated with depression, nausea, diarrhea and menstrual cramps.1
  • Peppermint is a famous relative of basil, lavender, thyme, patchouli and many other aromatic plants.3
  • Greeks and Romans crowned themselves with peppermint at their feasts and adorned their tables with its sprays.2
  • The United States produces nearly half of the world’s peppermint oil supply.2

Vegan Peppermint Chocolate Mousse

From Head Chef Todd Cameron, Gaia Retreat & Spa, Bangalow, Australia

Makes 4 servings, 329 calories, 17 grams of fat

Flesh of 1 ripe avocado

1⁄2 cup hulled tahini

1⁄3 cup organic cocoa powder

1 cup dark chocolate

3 drops peppermint essential oil

1⁄2 cup organic raw sugar or 2⁄3 cup white palm sugar

3⁄4 cup organic soy milk

1⁄2 cup water

Dash of vanilla essence

1 teaspoon agar agar powder

1⁄8 cup water

Preparation:

1. Place all ingredients except agar agar and 1⁄8 cup of water into a blender, and blend for one minute or until thoroughly mixed.

2. Set aside four bowls to set and serve the mousse.

3. In a small pot, add cold water and agar agar; mix; then bring to simmer for 30 seconds.

4. Add melted agar agar to mousse mix in the blender, and blend for 20 seconds.

5. Pour mix into bowls immediately. The mousse will set in fridge within 10 minutes.

6. Serve with a sprig of mint and a clear conscience, because it is healthy!

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