Q & A – Mint
There are so many different kinds of mint that anyone would be hard-pressed to identify them exactly in a blind taste test. There are more than 25 types of mint available for purchase today, although most recipes still call for the two most common types of mints — spearmint and peppermint. The various kinds of other mints still have a very predominant minty flavour with only a subtle hint of the other. So, for example, chocolate mint smells and tastes faintly of chocolate, kind of what a chocolate covered mint tastes like. Unlike adding actual chocolate to the recipe, using chocolate mint gives the dish a certain je ne sais quoi that will keep munchers guessing.
Recently, when I visited Reif Estate Winery’s Sensory Garden in Niagara, Ontario, I came across a grapefruit mint, berries and cream mint and so many more. It was fun to smell them “blind” and try to guess what that other scent was wafting up from the delicate leaves was. Reif’s chef, Robin Howe, created a menu that incorporated use of the herbs, and Roberto Di Domenico, the winemaker, managed to pair the herb-infused dishes with the wine. Grow your own or pick up a wide variety of herbs, and try that food and wine pairing experiment for yourself.
Here’s a breakdown of some of my favourite types of mint.
Apple Mint – fuzzy leaves that feature a delicate apple aroma when crushed. Use with roasted chicken, and enjoy with Sauvignon Blanc.
Basil Mint – heart-shaped leaves that smell of spice. Chop into a salad dressed lightly with best quality olive oil and a hint of lemon juice. Drink with Pinot Grigio.
Chocolate Mint – shiny, dark green leaves that taste subtly of chocolate. Use as a garnish for chocolate mousse. Pair with Port.
Curly Mint – curly leaves that taste of spearmint. Stir into a pitcher of lemonade.
Ginger Mint – soft, greyish leaves with a fruity, gingery sensation. Stir into a Mojito.
Lemon Bergamot Mint – soft, fuzzy leaves with a floral, lemony scent. Toss a few leaves into a pitcher of Iced Tea.
Pineapple Mint – variegated green and white leaves with a light pineapple flavour. Use on roasted lamb. Serve with Rioja.
Black Peppermint – dark green leaves with dark red stems and more intense in flavour than regular peppermint. Brew into refreshing and spicy tea.