Updated: Jun 19, 2020
Last summer the family and I took a trip up to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island — two of my absolute favorite places in the world. While up there, we spent a few days in Halifax — a lovely city that has grown by leaps and bounds in the 25 years since I had last visited. Each morning we went to breakfast at a nice little eatery called the PG Cafe and Grill, a very relaxed no-frills place that served really good breakfasts and some startlingly high-octane coffee. On our last day before heading up to the Island, I got to talking to the owner who was also one of the cooks. As we chatted about cooking, Canada, and whatever else, she was sauteing some chopped garlic and mint in some olive oil. To say it smelled delicious would be an understatement. To say that it touched my olfactory in such a way that I kept trying to inhale well beyond my lung capacity because I couldn't get enough would be closer to the truth. When I asked her what it was for, she said it was for a special later that day the name of which I cannot remember (I'm REALLY annoyed with myself for that), but there was chicken involved and it was all going to be rolled into dumplings. But that smell, good lord that lovely smell. I have not looked at mint the same since.
A little side note here, when we got home, I tried doing the garlic and mint thing with chicken and it made for a simple, tasty dinner when served with rice, and cucumber salad. It also works sauteing in butter as well. But enough about that...
Mint is one of the easiest things for a gardener to grow. It has a strong root system and it can take a lot of abuse as long as it has decent sun exposure. It can also get a little gnarly and invasive. Over a few seasons you need to keep control the mint before it starts getting into the space of your other plants. At the BGG, our central herb box was loaded with the stuff. I say "was" because just yesterday I went full-on scorched Earth in harvesting it. When I was done, it looked like the Soviet Front in '43. In all, I cut about 2 and a half pounds of mint that Mary Liz was kind enough to deliver to one of our food pantry partners.
The particular type of mint I harvested was "mojito mint", the very stuff used in the Cuban cocktail that shows up in almost every show set in South Florida. It has a really strong scent, which is enhanced whenever you cook it or grind it into a drink. By the time I was done harvesting, my hands smelled like a poolside bar in Miami.
There are a couple ways to harvest mint. One way is to not so much harvest it but to pull a few leaves off whenever you need them, much in the same way one would with basil, thyme, oregano, sage, pretty much any herb. That's the way most home gardeners would do it since they rarely need 2 lbs. of mint in a single go. Then there's the clear-cut method which is what I did today.
Using the garden shears, I clipped each stalk a few inches from the base, leaving little sprouting leaves on most. Some of these leftover stumps will die while others will sprout more leaves. With mint you can really mow it down since 99 times out of 100 it ends up growing back. If you have a lot of mint in your garden and you decide to harvest the way I did for whatever reason, you can keep it green and happy for 1 to 2 weeks in your house if you put the stems in a vase full of water. I cut a couple stalks about a week ago, and they're still sitting as green as ever in my kitchen window in a glass milk bottle filled with water. Still quite minty too.
Hopefully the people who receive the mint will find a decent use for it. Maybe even frying it up with some garlic and oil the way that woman up in Canada was doing it. That's a lot of the fun with these gardens imaging what people end up doing with the food we grow, especially considering the diverse backgrounds of the people who receive food from the BGG.
In thinking more about it, I really should have stuck around in Halifax longer to see what that woman ended up making. Hopefully one day soon we'll be back up there. For now I'll be content in the garden trying to keep the mint from taking over the rest of the herb box.