Marvelous, Miraculous Mint

Jaime Means of Shamma Farms specializes in medicinal food, herbs, microgreens and garden vegetables. Means grows his crops on one 3-acre property with a 5,000-square-foot garden and 2 acres of trees; and a 7.5-acre property with a 3,000-square-foot garden. Using biodynamic farming techniques, Means plants according to the lunar calendar, makes compost and uses organic fertilizer, worm casings and organic pest control.

What’s growing now: Avocados, basil, beets, broccoli, bush beans, cabbage, calamansi, carrots, cassava, chayote, chives (French and garlic), choy, cilantro, coconuts, comfery, dandelion greens, dragon fruit, edible flowers, egg fruit, eggplant, gourd (curly), grapefruit (sweet), kabocha squash, kale (curly, fizz, rainbow), kumquat, leeks, lemons (Meyer), lemongrass, lettuce, limes (seedless Tahitian), longan, lychee, mangos, marjoram, microgreens, mustard cabbage, neem, noni, onions, oranges, oregano (Greek), parsley, peppermint, perpetual spinach, rosemary, sage, spearmint, tangelo, tangerine, taro, tarragon, thyme, white sapote.

MINT

There are hundreds of varieties of mint, originating from 25 species. Some are tiny-leafed ground covers such as Corsican mint, and others, like apple mint, can grow up to 5 feet tall. Flavors range from very spicy (peppermint) to fruity (spearmint). All contain menthol, which gives the herb a bracing fragrance and flavor.

Because spearmint, named for the spear shape of its leaves, is aromatic and sweet, it’s a favorite in the kitchen. Uses range from sweet desserts to hearty dishes and fresh preparations. Peppermint, a natural hybrid of water mint and spearmint, has sterile seeds and must be propagated through cuttings or divisions.

Season: On Kaua’i, mint can be grown year-round.

What to look for: Choose bundles of mint that are stored in a cool, dry section of the produce area. Select mint with bright color, perky leaves and dry, clean stems. Avoid mint that is sold in plastic cases or in bundles that are stored in trays of water. When leaves stay wet, they turn black and mushy, and this hastens the decay of the whole bunch.

Storage: Keep herbs dry and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, where they will keep for up to one week.

Preparation: Mint adds a flavorful and unexpected accent to everything from light and summery dishes to spicy salsas, hearty foods and many desserts. It pairs well with oregano, rosemary, cilantro, lemon verbena, rose geranium and lavender. Spearmint complements the delicate flavors of chilled cucumber soup, minted peas, new potatoes, and contrasts and balances spicy hot ingredients such as a fiery carrot jalapeno salad. To preserve the flavor and aroma, add mint during the last stages of cooking. Infuse mint in hot water for tea or add sprigs to water for steaming fish or vegetables. Mint and lamb are a superior combination found in Mediterranean cuisine. Use mint in a marinade or rub for tuna, chicken or beef, or add to shellfish preparations. In India, a chutney is made by pounding mint leaves with citrus juice and chili peppers. You also can add mint to a piquant tomato sauce with capers.

Mint is excellent in sweets and fruit. Add chopped mint leaves to berries, melon, pineapple, mango or papaya. Use it to infuse syrup, milk, or cream in desserts, especially those with citrus, ginger or lavender. Peppermint is chillingly pungent and works best in chocolate or tea preparations.

Tip: Mint quickly will take over a garden, so plant in containers to prevent it from spreading. Watch it, though, because it will grow out of the holes in the bottom of the container and spill over the top, planting itself into the ground around it.

Health benefits: Mint contains a compound that is beneficial in asthma. Besides antioxidants, mint has been shown to block the production of inflammatory chemicals and encourages cells to make substances that keep the airways open for easy breathing.

Shamma Farms Produce can be found at: Grocery: Means delivers every Tuesday and Friday to Healthy Hut, Hoku Natural Foods and Papaya’s Natural Foods and Cafe. Restaurant: The Hukilau Lanai and Akamai Juice Co. For more information or for restaurant orders, email meansound@gmail.com.

MISSIONARY’S DOWNFALL

This summer, Michele Rundgren, wife of rock star Todd Rundgren, plans to open Tiki Iniki – a restaurant and tiki bar located in Princeville Shopping Center. Watch for details in my Tastes of Kaua’i column. In the meantime, enjoy this off-menu classic from Tiki Iniki bartender Matty Durgin. This is his version of a Don The Beachcomber cocktail, circa 1940.

* 1.5 ounce Plantation 3 Stars White Rum (or any rich, white rum)
* .5 ounce peach brandy
* 1 ounce honey mix ( 1-1 ratio of clover honey mixed with hot water)
* .5-ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
* 1/4 cup diced fresh pineapple
* 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, tightly packed
* 3/4 cup crushed ice Put all ingredients into a blender and blend on high for 20 seconds.

Pour contents into a large coupe or your favorite cocktail glass. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig and relax.

Marta Lane is a Kaua’i-based food writer. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.

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