I Bought a Chocolate Mint Plant... What Now?
Chocolate Mint Plant Recipes and a Few Ideas
I bought a travel trailer from a friend for cheap, and I found out it had an infestation from ants, spiders, and a few other invasive bugs. I decided that since I love herbs and spices and flavors of all sorts, as well as going natural for solutions instead of using pesticides. I could buy a plant of the mint species and the smell could just help me get rid of most of my infestation issues I was having. But what I did was more than just get rid of pests. I fell in love with the plant, and have been discovering for myself what I could do with it. With my average, boring kitchen, I landed myself in an adventure...
I bought the plant for $2.00 at a local store. (Yes! There actually is a plant called "chocolate mint"... It is not just the mint flavored chocolate you can make, but an actual plant with subtle chocolate-like flavor, and the usual mint taste!) I originally wanted a different mint plant, hoping for spearmint. Out of several stores, farmers markets, and one long hunt, no store had it. Eventually, I did come across a mint plant: chocolate mint. And it was of all odd times, when I was out grocery shopping; not mint plant hunting. It was the last of its kind left. I quickly scooped it up and into my cart, proud yet so protective of my find, like a puppy with a bone, and purchased it. I took it home, and sat there, staring at it. What next?
I watered it and put it inside my travel trailer, leaving it to bask in the sunlight coming through the window. Within the next 24 hours, it looked as if it was happier. It didn't look as horrible as I got it, with it's wilted look. It looked alive. Like a curious child, I poked and prodded the plant, just wondering. I knew very little of chocolate mint plants. I then proceeded to taste my finger after touching the plant. It was delicious! And the smell was enough to make me salivate. Although I don't own as much as Martha Stewart or anyone else with their fancy list of extensive ingredients, I just had to experiment right away! And over time, that is just what I did.
Growing the Chocolate Mint Plant
Like any plant of the mint species, take caution as to where you plant it. The plant may look small at first, but it does try to take over gardens, or any spot where it may be left to grow. Quite deceptive! I kept mine in a large, flat cake pan for a while, although I later transplanted it to a deeper pot of equal size. I felt it needed more dirt. It has grown nicely for me, this way. Any off shoots and stems that seem to have gone crazy, I directed in to the soil. I have cut it back a bit at times, picking the leaves off and discarding the rest. But I have mostly enjoyed weaving it around, directing it.
With sunlight, I try to keep it to several hours a day, but in a spot where the sun slowly enters and exits my trailer. And as with all my plants, I water them at a time when the sun is not on the plant, giving the plant enough water to keep the soil moist. In the cold months of winter, the chocolate mint plant does die back if kept outdoors. It should come back to life come warmer weather. With keeping mine in a cake pan, I prefer to bring it inside my house to attempt to keep it alive longer.
Giving the changing temperature conditions of my home, it seems to have lasted longer. Other times, not so much. We have a problem with battles over the thermostat, and our poor plants do tend to take notice. If you want your chocolate mint plant to last a bit longer with the leaves, carefully remove the flowers. Once the plant starts to bloom, the leaves start to lose their mint flavor. That mint flavor tends to peak just right before the bloom.
Drying the Chocolate Mint Leaves
Start by cutting a few sprigs of the chocolate mint plant leaves and wash them. Shake the water off, or very lightly dab them dry with a paper towel. (Or toilet paper, if you're very careful. Just make sure you don't reuse the toilet paper, or leave pieces behind on the leaves.) and then gather them in a bundle. I prefer to tie them together with a twist tie from the box of garbage bags, as you can determine how tight or loose to tie them. Next, take a piece of yarn, twine, a shoestring, or whichever you choose, and tie it to the twist tie on the bundle.
If you've done this right so far, it shouldn't be falling apart. Next, create a long enough length so it can hang free and away from being disturbed while it dries, and make a loop on the end. That way, you can hang it on a nail or a push pin. However you choose to hang it is up to you. It's best to let it dry hanging in the air, away from a wall. For me, I chose my attic ceiling to dry any plant I need to dry out. The length of time to dry out a plant can vary from area to area, house to house. I try to check on them every two weeks. Sometimes, it can take two weeks. Sometimes, it does take longer. When I believe it is dry, I will take a test leaf and see how well it crumbles. If it crumbles and does not seem to be intact like a fresh leaf, it should be ready. When they are ready, take a clean, dry glass jar, or a plastic container with a sealing lid that is airtight, and store them. (If it's your first time drying, and you aren't sure if they are completely dry, you can take an extra week to leave them. And if you come back to your container being a bit moldy, it is okay. They were not dry enough and needed longer. Think of it as practice!)
Now about those recipes... I've listed a few I have tried and enjoyed. Whatever you do, whatever you change, is all up to you. Just remember: Take a little, leave a lot. Don't take all of the leaves from a plant. It could damage it.
- Chocolate Mint Plant Ice Cubes: This is a fairly easy one. Just harvest about two or three chocolate mint leaves per ice cube tray square. Put it in the freezer. When frozen, it can be added to a drink of your choice for that little hint of mint.
- Coffee: I've taken a few chocolate mint leaves and dried them. Upon doing so, I just took about five of them, crumbled them and mixed it into the coffee grounds, right before the coffee started to brew. It tastes delicious and smells amazing.
- Iced Teas: There are various styles of iced tea. Using a teapot that has an infuser, I tend to usually use dried leaves. If I'm using other fresh ingredients, depending how many, I use fresh leaves like a decoration, floating around freely.
- Chocolate Mint Sweet Iced Tea: I tend to use my infuser, for this. I really just keep it simple. My infuser teapot serves about six cups (of 8 oz. serving size). I add 3/4 of sugar, and then the hot water, stirring it until it dissolves. My infuser is attached to the lid, so I usually just take two factory made tea bags of black tea and empty it into the infuser. (Call me a cheater, but as I said, I love working with what's in an average kitchen or easily found from a store.) I added the dried chocolate mint leaves into the infuser as well, for that mint flavor. I usually use about half of a tea cup of chocolate mint leaves. When it is all put together, I leave it to sit for about an hour, or until cold, mixing it every so often. I remove the infuser and it's contents, and serve. Sometimes I use ice, other times I don't. To me, it's that refreshing.
- Lemon Chocolate Mint Iced Tea: It's the same process as above, with the Mint Sweet Iced Tea. Just add the step of three fresh lemon slices (more or less to taste) in the infuser with the black tea and chocolate mint leaves mixture. Except, when you remove the contents of the infuser, make sure to squeeze out the juice from lemon slices back into the tea, before discarding. Any bits of tea and chocolate mint leaves that make their way in the tea, usually sink to the bottom and rarely are served.
- Strawberry Mint Lemonade: Another pretty basic one. I buy frozen lemonade in a can, follow the directions on the container, and just add about a half a cup (sometimes I do use more) of fresh strawberries, cut in half. After I add the two, I use about a small handful of fresh chocolate mint leaves, and a tablespoon of sugar, mixing it all together. I leave it to sit in the fridge for an hour, stirring it every so often, and then serve. The nice part about this is that you can eat the strawberries and the chocolate mint leaves. (If you feel like switching this up for an icy drink, you can either use the mint ice cubes, or if you're using a plastic pitcher, you can freezer the mixture until it begins to turn a slushy texture.)
- Water : This one was a bit complicated for me. I really felt like I didn't get much chocolate mint flavor from just adding fresh chocolate mint leaves to cold water. I really love the mint flavor. I decided to boil some water, add about a fluffy half of a cup of fresh mint leaves to a pot, and let it seep with teaspoon of sugar stirred in. I recommend more or less sugar to taste, or none at all. With my 6 cup serving of a teapot, this was perfect for me, and amazing to taste on a recent hot summer day. Refreshing on a walk, too! (Bonus: If you do not add sugar, put a dab of the water on your skin on a hot summer day. It feels amazing and refreshing! But, this may not be for everyone. And remember, keep it out of your eyes, ears, nose, and other places where your Mother told you to not stick anything; "Don't stick things where they don't belong!")
- Hot Chocolate: I used a mix of fresh leaves and dried for this one. I first took dried leaves, and crumbled them into the bottom of my cup. I poured the packet of hot cocoa into my cup (with marshmallows! Yum!) and followed with hot milk. You could use water, but I prefer milk for a creamy taste. I added about a half of a cup of the hot milk, stirred what I could (Those pesky hot cocoa chunks!) and just continued to pour a little at a time, until the hot cocoa mix dissolved. Next, I grabbed the whipped cream I had and added it into my cup, leaving it partially floating yet melting. I had cut up two of the fresh leaves I had and made it into small sprinkle size, adding it on top of my whipped cream. If you want to get fancy, you can add whole leaves on top for a pretty presentation. Or, for the winter season, you could buy red paper straws (or green) and also add it for a festive look!
Note: Everyone's taste varies. I based this off the unstable amounts I usually choose, depending on how much I feel like eating more or less of. You can add or subtract ingredients, and it's amounts, to your taste buds desires. Or, if you have allergies, you could always change the ingredients for a substitute. Experiments in foods are always an interesting adventure!
There are various ideas I have tried with the leaves of the Chocolate Mint Plant. I find it perfect for a summer time salad. The ideas are endless! Below, I have provided a few.
- My personal favorite is a salad consisting of plain ol' lettuce, romaine lettuce, strawberries, cheese crumbles (I tend to mix this up, from feta to bleu cheese, to pieces of muenster to brie. I love variety!), chopped almonds, Chocolate Mint leaves, and a raspberry walnut vinaigrette. Some love my salad, some don't. Again, that is my personal choice and favorite.
- Another idea which I love contains tomatoes, the chocolate mint leaves, cucumbers, and a little mozzarella and red wine vinaigrette. I just cut up the tomatoes, as well as cut and skin the cucumbers, add little bits of mozzarella and chopped chocolate mint leaves, then mix it into a small amount of red wine vinaigrette.
- My third favorite is really just a fruit salad. You could use strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, mandarin oranges, pears, and other berries of your choice for this one. I will first wash them off, and then cut them into bite size pieces. I also like to cut/rip the chocolate mint leaves into smaller pieces, so the chocolate mint leaves aren't too overwhelming. However you create your fruit salad is up to you.
Chocolate and Other Sweet Ideas
To note: If you add chocolate mint leaves into any recipe, be it cookies, fudge, or other baked goods, you may want to chop them into small sprinkle sized pieces so it doesn't seem so awkward biting into something and getting a huge chunk of leaf to gnaw on. Subtle is sometimes better. There is a variety of ideas you can do. Such as:
- Ice Cream
- And so on!
There are endless ideas out there when it comes to baked goods and the like. My personal favorite is making chocolate cake (From a box and following it's directions. It's easier for me.) and adding those chopped up sprinkles of chocolate mint leaves into the mixture. As the cake bakes in the oven, the chocolate mint leaves work like an extract to give that mint flavor. I add green food coloring to the container of vanilla frosting and just frost the cake, proceeding with more sprinkles of chopped mint. To add on extra, I take fresh leaves and arrange them in a fan in each of the four corners. If you're doing a round cake, you could arrange the leaves as a simple border.
Other Food Ideas
Using chocolate mint leaves are quite endless with possibilities. If you are looking for that mint taste to anything, be it small or large, you could use it. I have heard of it used in beef, fish, poultry, and other meats. Although, the recipes do vary. It may be easy to use the leaves, or it may be difficult. If you are trying a recipe for the first time, I recommend, like any recipe, to try it before you make it for a crowd. Practice is helpful and can save you from serving a bad dish for a large group of people.
Like I have mentioned above, you could always make a chocolate mint water and dab it upon your skin for a cool, refreshing feel on a hot summer day. Please remember, "Don't stick things where they don't belong!"(ie: Eyes, ears, nose, cuts, etc...)
- Potpourri: Instead of using a pot I cook food in, I went to the local thrift store and bought a pot for cheap. I went home and scratched "Non-Food" into the metal and let everyone know it was not for food. I use this pot to boil the chocolate mint leaves in with, and sometimes without, a combination of herbs, flowers, and potpourri.
- Fragrance: There are a few ways that people use the Chocolate Mint Plant for its fragrance. Some take the fresh leaves and rub it right on to their skin and clothing. Others create oils out of it for perfumes and soaps. Instead of going through the process of creating oils and making a longer lasting scent, I prefer to be one of the people who enjoy a swift brush of the leaves on myself, be it my clothes or on my neck.
- Natural Pesticide: There are many different pests that can be rid of with this plant. I've had mice that tend to stay away, as well as mosquitoes, ants, and a couple of other insects. Although, this plant is prone to aphids infesting. It really can be a hit or miss with what this plant attracts and repels. At first, it was keeping flies away. Now, they don't seem to mind it. I can't guarantee what may, or may not happen, with this plant repelling.
To this day, I continue to discover more about what I could do and cannot do with the chocolate mint plant. It has been fun to experiment with. If you have any advice, or anything you would like to share, then let's hear it!
Just Like The Andes Chocolate Mint Candies...
© 2014 Kryssy Bruckheimer