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I love mint in the summertime. The first sip of a mint julep during Derby Days in May always gives me hope that vacation is around the corner — and nothing seems to soothe a hot, humid summer swelter in the height of August quite like an iced tea with mint.
Another favorite thing about mint is that not only is it delicious, it packs a serious homeopathic punch as a natural healing aid for digestive issues and bad breath (among other things). Plus, my friends and neighbors with gardens are always begging me to take some home for free — if you've ever grown the stuff, you know it spreads like weeds. (Delicious, nutritious weeds.) I've even connected with people on Freecycle and other platforms asking for help culling their mint patch for them, completely gratis. (The haul in the top photo, above, is from my sister's garden last week — the one below it is a grocery bag full I got last summer from a Somerville neighbor on Freecycle.)
Buying fresh herbs like mint on the regular can really take a bite out of your grocery budget, which is why I always freeze as much of them as I can when they're growing like wild. Chopping mint finely and stuffing into a chipped ice tray creates a potent Dorot-like pellet of frozen mint (all three photos, above) that I can either defrost or throw into a recipe, like my green juice, all year long — and which I stuffed into my water bottle for the gym all during the heatwave to make sure I was hydrating properly without tiring of drinking water. Speaking of water: make sure you wash & dry your mint well, especially if the garden it was picked from is the stomping ground of house pets!
Placing a single, whole mint stalk top into a regular ice cube tray creates pretty, Pinterest-y cubes for cocktails and mocktails when friends come to visit. It seriously takes 3 minutes (plus a few hours of freeze time) and everyone will think you're the hipster Martha Stewart.
Freezing herbs into ice cube trays is such a trendy money-saver that today, even while writing this post, I caught Sandra Lee showing viewers how to make mint ice cubes for her "Sandy Collins" cocktail recipe on an episode of her show: Money Saving Meals.
If you want to keep your mint fresh, not frozen, for longer stretches of time, invest in an herb keeper like this one from Cuisipro (above), which I raved about earlier this year in my list of favorite kitchen savers that cut grocery costs (and calories!).
What's your favorite thing to do with mint or other herbs to help stretch their life and save money on your grocery bill? Or just make life in the kitchen prettier? Love to hear from you!
Story & photos: Copyright 2013, Shoestring LLC & Melissa Massello.