True mint, Australian-style
Australia has its own versions of the well-known fragrant mint plants.
Latin name: Mentha spp. Known varieties include:
- Mentha australis: River Mint.
- Mentha satureioides: Native Pennyroyal, Creeping Mint, Bush Mint.
- Mentha dimenica: Wild Mint, Slender Mint.
It is a true mint, and can be treated the same way both in the kitchen and in the garden.
- Very concentrated pennyroyal flavour.
- Use less than you would of the exotic mints; the native varieties are very strongly-flavoured.
- Excellent in savoury dishes in conjunction with other herbs and spices to round out flavours.
- Can be used in sweet dishes, but sparingly.
- Is a true mint, and requires good sun and water to survive.
- Is not as invasive as exotic mints, but can take over a section of garden if it has no other competition and the long, wiry stems may need cutting back every few years.
- Flowers vary in colour depending on variety. River Mint has white flowers, Slender Mint’s flowers are a pale purple, and Bush Mint’s flowers can be either white or purple.
- Easily transplanted to new sections by finding a runner with roots.
- Unlike the exotic mints, Mentha australis (at least) tolerates frost and exposed areas reasonably well as long as it has good sunlight and water.
- In other words, you can have mint all through winter if you want!
- It also does very well in a shaded or semi-shaded location with good water.
Harvesting and storage
- Use both whole and ground leaves, both fresh and dried.
- Leaves dry best in a cool, well-aired location. Keep out of direct sun or heat for the best result.
- If harvesting your own plant, try keeping leaves on pruned branches and placing in a vase with no water. Ensure good airflow around the stems and leaves to prevent mould.
- The result looks wonderful, and will give out a subtle scent over the next week or so as it gently dries.
- Leaves can also be dried at low heat in a dehydrator.
- Leaves can then be easily stripped off the stems and placed in an airtight container for storage.
- Whole leaves will keep their savour for a good 12 months, if need be.
- Grind by hand or in a high-powered blender and store in an airtight container.
- Ground leaves will retain the best scent for about three months.