Peppermint

HERBS FOR COOKING

Mentha piperita

Why we love it: Long ago, Mother Nature played matchmaker and crossed water mint with spearmint to make peppermint. This natural hybrid sports perky, dark green leaves, nectar-rich flowers that bees love to nuzzle, and a come-hither fragrance. Unlike most herbs, peppermint thrives in damp soils and shade. Conjure up visions of candy canes in midsummer by planting it in a spot you brush by olden.

Know before you grow: This hardy perennial grows exuberantly from underground steins and can quickly overwhelm less vigorous plants. The most reliable way to keep mint under control is to plant it in a wide, shallow, bowl-shaped pot. Otherwise, grow it under a downspout--your garden will smell minty fresh during rainstorms.

Moroccan Mint Tea: Bring 4 cups cold water to a rolling boil in a teakettle. Take the kettle off the burner and set it aside for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, place 1 tablespoon loose green tea leaves, 2 packed tablespoons fresh, whole peppermint leaves, and 4 tablespoons sugar in a teapot. Pour the hot water into the teapot and stir until the sugar dissolves. Allow the tea to steep for 4 minutes. Strain and serve.

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