Monday, July 11, 2011

Back to the Kitchen and Thankful for the Garden...Spearmint leaves are wonderful.... kind of like my Gardener Guy!!!

Avery Mae and I (Grandma Grandest) getting ready to hike Ensign Peak!!!
For the past few weeks I have been Heavenly involved in the role of being a Grandmother. Some might not enjoy this role as I do. When I was eleven my Mother passed away due to cancer. I dearly missed having her around in my life and in my children's life. I looked forward to my own Children and Grandchildren and being all that I could as a Mother and Grandmother...I cherish it. Yesterday Avery Mae left my home to head back to Las Vegas (my home town). We had a great time seeing some sites of Salt Lake, I am looking forward to blogging about our many adventures. She will be missed as I miss all my kids. My move to Farmington has been good, being away from my children has been hard. Visits from them and traveling to see them are greatly adored.

My Monday started in the Garden picking raspberries, and spearmint leaves....

Did you notice I got a new Camera and I signed up for some camera classes!!!

I think a glass of Spearmint Tea will be refreshing today...
Because I want some tea now I will use the fresh leaves and let some steep in a pan of hot water. I will also dry some for my making my own tea blend and tea bags.

Last year at this time I fell in love with the many uses of my
Sons wedding luncheon I decorated all the desserts or many of them with beautiful spearmint leaves....

Kyle's wedding luncheon...

Spearmint leaves makes desserts so pretty....a very nice garnish indeed!!!

Making tea from freshly cut herbs from your own yard is an easy and self rewarding task. The most commonly used herbs are Peppermint and Spearmint. Both of these herbs are extremely easy to grow and usually provide more than enough leaves for making tea many times throughout the year. Just about any herb you grow can be brewed into a delicious tea. I am trying to get myself in a better habit of drinking teas instead of Diet Coke. (Healthy teas, no caffeine)

First you pick the spearmint ...or if you have some peppermint is good. Cut the stem off close to the ground leaving at least two sets of leaves on each stem so your plant will continue to grow or select only the tender new leaves at the top of the plant.

Separate the leaf from the stem, avoid yellowish or spotted damaged leaves and next wash the leaves...

If you have a salad spinner, spin off the excess water...if not shake off the excess water.

Other herbs that can be use are Sage leaf, Chamomile flower, Rosemary leaf, Lemon Balm leaf, and of course Peppermint leaf. A simple hint, starting with one herb as your primary flavor and throwing in a little bit of another herb can create an interesting tasting tea. For example start with mostly Peppermint leaves and add a bit of Sage leaves or try adding the petals from a rose. It is always fun to experiment...

Herb teas made from fresh herbs tend to be a bit weaker tasting than those made from dried herbs. It helps to gather more herbs than you think you'll need and then actually use all of it that way my tea will have the stronger flavor, you can always add more water. I suggest gathering enough herb to make at least a pot of tea (about 4-6 cups). It helps if you can take the same pot you’re going to brew your tea in (or a bowl about the same size) out to the garden with you then cut enough herbs to fill the pot about 3/4 full. If possible cut your herbs in the morning to ensure the best flavor.

Put herb leaves in a pot and add just enough water to cover the herbs. Use a long spoon to carefully bruise the herb by pressing the spoon into the herb against the sides of the pot. Allow water to come to a slow boil, then turn off the heat and allow herbs to steep for up to a half hour.

Strain the tea through a mesh strainer or colander. If you have a tea steeper use it for dried leaves or your tea bags, just add boiling water and allow you tea to steep about a 1/2 hour. Pour into a container of storage, a pot of tea can be refrigerated for about five days.
This is my Tea Steeper I use for small batches, dried herbs or tea bags. These kind of tea steeper's come in many sizes, shapes and you can find them pretty easy.

The leaves extra fresh leaves that I will not use today I will allow to will take a few days. When they are dry I will make my own tea bags so I can enjoy this tea all year. You can also just store the leaves in a large glass jar and steep just the leaves.

Chill and enjoy...I am going outside for awhile....drinking some cold spearmint tea and enjoying the sounds of summer...You can sweeten your tea with any kind of sweetners....I try to drink it sugar free, less calories, but my favorite is making a simple mint syrup. I use 1 1/2 cups of steep spearmint tea and 2 cups of sugar. Bring this to a slow boil and allow to thicken. This syrup can be put up in a canning jar using the hot water bath method processing for it for 10 minutes. Mix in what you like as it's all a personal preference thing....But Enjoy It!!!

Spearmint Simple Syrup...

" For additional uses for Dried Mint Leaves as well as some recipes see the following link... A serving of dried mint leaves provides you more fiber, vitamins and minerals than a serving of fresh mint leaves, but the benefits of mint extend beyond its nutritional..."

Health benefits of spearmint

■Spearmint is pleasantly aromatic herb packed with numerous health benefiting vitamins, antioxidants and phyto-nutrients.

■The leaves and herb parts contain essential oil menthol. However, unlike in peppermint, spearmint does not contain high amounts of menthol (0.5% compared to the 40% in peppermint), making it least pungent and subtly fragrant herb in mint family.

■The herb has low calories (about 43 cal per 100 g) and contains zero cholesterol.

■The chief essential oil in spearmint is menthol. Other important chemical components of spearmint are α-pinene, β-pinene, carvone, cineole, linalool, limonene, myrcene and caryophyllene. These compounds in mint help relieve fatigue and stress.

■The herb parts are also very good in minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Iron is required for enzymes in cellular metabolism and synthesis of hemoglobin. Potassium in an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.

■It is also rich in many antioxidant vitamins including vitamin A (provides 4054 IU or 135% of RDA), beta carotene, vitamin C, folates (26% of RDA), vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), riboflavin and thiamin.

Medicinal uses

Almost all parts of mint herb found place in various traditional as well in modern medicine.
■The herb decoction is an excellent remedy for minor ailments such as headaches, nervous strain, fatigue and stress, as well as for the respiratory problems; helping with asthma, bronchitis and catarrh.

■It is very useful to deal with digestive problems including nausea, flatulence and hiccups as it relaxes the stomach muscles.

■The essential oil, menthol, also has analgesic, local anaesthetic and counterirritant properties. Used in toothpaste and mouth refresheners.

■On the skin, when used as cream or lotion, it may help relieve the itching of pruritis, dermatitis and hives.

■Used as blended massage oil or in the aromatic therapy spearmint oil helps with headaches, stress, fatigue, and nervous conditions and to relieve itching.

■Spearmint tea can be used safely in pregnancy. In women, it helps reduce unwanted hairs through its anti-androgenic properties.
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