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October 2020

What to do with all of that delightful Mint!

 By Bobbi Henkel - WRHS Garden Chair

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Peppermint is one of the easiest to grow and most versatile of the common kitchen herbs.  It gives back to your effort with its lovely green appearance and pretty little tufts of terminal racemes of flower spikes.   But, the fragrance and the taste potential give its most sought after delights.

Ease of growing:   Mint grows in full or partial sun, and can easily be started in pots on your patio, or placed into soil directly in places where you wouldn’t care if it spreads like wildfire.

It attracts pollinators and grows in lousy clay soil like my Ohio backyard,  but even better in some cultivated lovely loamy humus.  Even Miracle Grow.  Don’t let it dry out.  It loves moisture and is a frost-hardy perennial in zones 3-12.   And, if you’re worried and want it to produce even longer, bring it into your garage or porch over the winter.  My pots stay outdoors in Northern Ohio Winters and are about 5 years old so far.

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Fresh cut for flower bouquets:  The leaves are a pretty deep green growing off square stems that hold their shape easily.   You can mix them into black eyed Susans  and you have a sensual treat because of the fragrance and the colors.   The blooms appear at the terminus of the stems in little tufts of white or light pink or lavender.

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To use Peppermint freshly picked:  Choose small tender bright green leaves and pick whole stems.  Wash it under cold water and pat it dry with a towel.

Add a sprig to garnish a glass of lemonade or iced tea

Add small leaves to fruit salads:  cantaloupe, watermelon, berries with a squirt of lemon over them all.  Chill and serve. Also? Why don't you mix up fresh Arnold Palmers:  1/2 lemonade with 1/2 cold tea and add 2 tablespoons of minced fresh peppermint.    Allow to stand for an hour then strain and serve over ice. This allows a subtle hint of mint.   Longer steeping yields stronger flavor.

Freeze finely chopped peppermint (2 tsps) into ice cube tray compartments.  Add water or lemonade to fill the cube compartments and freeze.  Use the cubes in beverages immediately or up to two months later if kept in plastic bags in the freezer.  You are ready for mojitos anytime  or you can add them to spice up steamed veggies:  baby carrots, new potatoes are the ones I do with a little butter and lemon or lime juice.

 Another of my favorite uses for chopped peppermint is to combine it with parsley, bulgur wheat and lemon juice to make your own tabbouleh salads

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Dried:   wash your fresh peppermint under cold water and pat it dry.  Then allow it to dry for a few days in a warm dry not at all humid place.  You can hang several stems upside down in paper bags for a few days until the leaves are crispy.

Add it to summer beverages and allow to sit overnight.  Strain, and serve over ice.  Dried mint is stronger than fresh so this makes a minty lemonade for those of us who love that menthol flavor in tea or ginger ale or lemonade. 

Slip a few leaves into your facial mask for a subtle pleasant minty lift that distracts you from thoughts of pandemics.

Steep dried mint into boiling water and add honey for a soothing mint tea great for sore throats.

Make the dried leaves into a “Mint Potpourri” and house them in little fabric pockets to ward off spiders and add fragrance to closets or drawers.

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Mint Jelly: This recipe from Simply Recipes is one of or favorites because it uses tart Granny Smith Apples as its base so it needs no added pectin! This delicious jelly will always add a little zip to your roast lamb, fish dishes, or chicken.

The  oils in mints are strongest when picked from mid summer leaves when the plants are receiving 14 hours of sunshine a day.   Pinch off blooms to retain tenderness in new leaves and bushier plants.   Older tougher leaves are stronger tasting and less pleasant, but still make great dried preparations for potpourri’s that are said to repel spiders.

Growing mints in your garden allows a fragrant green colony of plants that are pleasant to humans but not to deer, squirrels, mice, or ants.    If you don’t mind their love of life and desire to take over the adjacent spaces, they are terrific 2 to 3 foot high covers serving to hide in front of air conditioner boxes.   If you mind their spreading tendencies, sink pots into the soil that impede the roots from trespassing beyond the container limits.  I just create “peppermint pots” that offer free aromatherapy when I water them in the evening.

Sigh.   Bliss, bliss. 

Love,

Bobbi 

 

We are still in the middle of our month of fundraising, and if you would care to support our “No Fair Herb Fair” with a tax exempt donation of any size it will always be greatly appreciated.
Through your donations, The Western Reserve Herb Society is preserving our legacy of expanding and sharing knowledge of these wonderful plants and their impact on our lives, our culture, and our environment.
To make a donation in honor of the “No Fair Herb Fair!” please go to https://www.westernreserveherbsociety.org/support-our.../
Thank you so much!

 

 


St. Hildegard of Bingen, the medieval herbalist! 

By Shanon Sterringer ~ WRHS Member

Ph.D., D.Min, MA Theology, MA Ministry, BA
Ordained Priest, GSC
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It is hard to believe it has been almost a year since I had the privilege of presenting Hildegard the Medieval Herbalist at one of the monthly WRHS meetings.  Many of you are familiar with this amazing woman who practiced healing, not only through the use of foods and herbs, but precious gemstones.  Her work Physica serves as an encyclopedia for the use of many natural elements for holistic health and well-being.  She sees their healing properties existing through her theological understanding of viriditas (greening power) which she believed was the life-source that came from our Creator Source.  Viriditas animates and sustains all that is alive.

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St. Hildegard of Bingen describes amethyst in her work, Physica in the following way: “Amethyst develops when the sun shows its circle, as though it was crowned, which it does when it prefigures some change in the vestment of the Lord, in the Church.  Amethyst grows as a gum, and so there are many of them.  It is hot and fiery and a bit airy, since the air is a bit cool when the sun shows its circle.” She goes on to describe how to use it medicinally.  For Hildegard, God’s providence permeates every particle of the created world and therefore everything in nature has an ordered purposed.  Human beings are a part of the divine order and therefore will find benefit in mind, body and spirit from the natural world.

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One herb that is of particular interest to Hildegard, and Hildegard followers today, is fennel.  In her work she recorded almost two full pages on fennel including the following: “In whatever way it is eaten, it makes a person happy and brings a gentle heat and good perspiration, and make for good digestion… Eating fennel or its seeds every day diminishes bad phlegm and decaying matter, keeps bad breath in check and makes one’s eyes see clearly, by its good heat and beneficial powers.”  Fennel tea and seeds are often consumed today following meals to aid in the digestive process. 

This is a photo from the back of the Hildegard Haus in Fairport Harbor (where I live and pastor a community of faith).  Growing alongside of the church building is a beautiful crop of fennel.  Last year I worked in the dye garden and in the fall, I was invited to take a handful of fennel seeds from one of the plants.  This small handful of seeds produced an abundant crop here in Fairport Harbor. It is so beautiful, in part because it captures Hildegard’s charism and the spirit of the Western Reserve Herb Society.  While I have truly missed being at the WRHS garden this year, I feel gratitude each day as I walk out into the courtyard at the Hildegard Haus to visit the fennel plants. 

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Another popular Hildegard themed treat is her recipe for “Cookies of Joy” or sometimes referred to as “Nerve Cookies” because they are meant to calm one’s nerves by bringing joy.  These cookies are often made from spelt flour (one of Hildegard’s preferred grains) and include her “Spices of Joy” mixture – cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.  In Physica, she wrote: “Take some nutmeg and an equal weight of cinnamon and a bit of cloves and pulverize them.  Then make small cakes with this and fine whole wheat flour (or spelt) and water.  Eat them often.  It will calm all bitterness of the heart and mind, open your heart and impaired senses, and make your mind cheerful.”  There are many recipes circulating for these cookies and when I have hosted retreats or events, many different versions often appear on the buffet table.  Some very unique, and all delicious!  A recipe is included at the end of this blog post, but I encourage you to play with it and make it your own!

Hildegard of Bingen died on September 17, 1179 and so her feast day is celebrated each year in her memory and honor.  We not only celebrate to remember who she was and what she did in 12th century Germany, but to be inspired to bring some of the charism of this remarkable woman, a German Benedictine Nun and Mystic, into our world today.  She has much to teach us about the created world, including the rich treasures of plants, trees, herbs, precious stones and foods.  Her wisdom reaches far beyond this blog post, but for now we can start by kicking back with a cup of fennel tea and a cookie of joy - actually in her book, Hildegard says to eat five or six of them each day!  

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Above is a photo of me from our Hildegard “feast” we celebrated as the culmination of a 12-day international virtual pilgrimage with participants from all over the world.  We started in Fairport Harbor each day and then traveled to Germany and experienced the viriditas (greening power) of Hildegard’s homeland through her art, music, preaching and of course, her use of herbs, plants and precious stones. As you can see on the table in front of me, I celebrated with spelt, chestnuts, fennel tea and cookies of joy!  May this season of harvest be overflowing with viridity!

In her book, From Saint Hildegard’s Kitchen: Foods of Health, Foods of Joy,  Jany Fournier-Rosset includes the following recipe:

Cookies That Bring Joy

 12 Tbsps+1tsp butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup honey

4 egg yolks

2 ½ cups spelt flour

1 tsp salt

2 rounded tbsps “Spices of Joy”

Melt the butter under low heat, add the sugar, honey, and egg yolks, beating lightly.  Add the flour and salt, combine gently.  Refrigerate this cookie dough after mixing, for at least one hour.  Remove from refrigerator.  Roll out onto a floured surface, cut with a cookie cutter. Bake on a baking sheet at 400 F for 10-15 minutes until golden, watching closely.