Growing Wild Mint

IMG_20130623_180202_341This past spring I found a large patch of wild mint growing out in Harkey Valley in Yell County. With its square stalks, pointed leaves, and tall spikes of purple flowers, the plant stood over two feet tall.

It blanketed a large patch of the former pasture, growing up past the top row of the rusty barbed wire fence. In the late afternoon sun the pale flowers seemed to glow. I picked a few of the leaves and crushed them in my hand, breathing in the sharp, cool scent.

Various forms of wild mint grow throughout the United States, and hybridization occurs naturally. Wild mint is most often found in open fields and sunny marches and can almost always be identified by its unique square stalk.

Some of the mint plants have strong scents like their cultivated relatives, but others have a milder scent and taste. Just like cultivated mint, wild mint can be used to give a cool finish to your sweet tea; it can be dried and used as an herbal tea, added to jellies, and as an herb for cooking. I was so taken with the beauty of that patch of wildflowers that I dug up a few roots and brought them back to my home garden where they’re already thriving. After all, mint is known for being prolific, often becoming invasive if not contained.

The late Billy Joe Tatum was known for the recipes she created to accompany her plant foraging throughout Arkansas. I recently pulled down my copy of her book, Wild Foods Cookbook and Field Guide and found this gem that’s just perfect for the end of the summer—a time when you still have tons of mint and the fall apples are beginning to show on the trees.  I’ve copied the recipe verbatim.

The late Billy Joe Tatum was known for the recipes she created to accompany her plant foraging throughout Arkansas. I recently pulled down my copy of her book, Wild Foods Cookbook and Field Guide and found this gem that’s just perfect for the end of the summer—a time when you still have tons of mint and the fall apples are beginning to show on the trees.  I’ve copied the recipe verbatim.

 

      “Spearmint, Orange and Apple Desert”

  • 3 cups seedless oranges cut up
  • 3 cups applesauce
  • 1 cup spearmint leaves, finely chopped
  1. Pulverize the oranges, peel and all in an electric blender
  2. Combine applesauce and add mint
  3. Pour into serving bowl or individual bowls and chill. Before serving, garnish with mint sprigs.

 IMG_20130623_180233_326Tatum’s book contains other wonderful wild plant deserts such as “persimmon soufflé,” “pawpaw custard, and “maypop ice.” Of course, there are also a lot of great recipes for everyone’s favorite wild food, poke sallet/poke greens/poke salad.

Do you use wild mint in your home? I’d love to hear about it. What about poke sallet? Everyone around here has a great poke green story, right? I’d love to hear yours and possibly share it with readers in upcoming columns. You can visit me online at www.boileddownjuice.com where you can also find past columns about Tatum, wild plants, and life in central Arkansas—past and present. Thanks so much for reading!

Click here to read our past column about the passing of plant genius, Billy Joe Tatum 

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The Seed and the Story is a partnership with the Courier and Post Dispatch newspapers in Pope and Yell County, Arkansas. This weekly column written by Boiled Down Juice editor Meredith Martin-Moats, explores folklife, oral history, and community in central Arkansas, particularly the Yell County area where the column originates. Columns are often written in partnership with the McElroy House: Organization for Folklife, Oral History, and Community Action and humbly attempt to bridge intergenerational themes in the region.