One of the first thoughts that comes to mind when you think of foraging in the state of Michigan may be an image of going deep in the woods and hunting for morel mushrooms or finding patches of wild berries near the many lakes and rivers the state has to offer. Sometimes, all you need to do is pull off the side of an old country road, roll down the window and follow your nose to the jackpot. It also helps when you stop and ask somebody who is out picking wild asparagus on the side of the road.
The object of this foraging expedition was wild mint. At first, it wasn’t as easy as you’d think. You’d search the river banks and creeks and surrounding areas without finding anything. Many native plants have a somewhat similar appearance, so your nose has to be your guide. There’s no mistaking that smell of fresh picked mint. Once you come across it, you look up to the heavens with joy. Who knew that that short roadside conversation with a complete stranger would lead to finding this roadside treasure? There it sat in a drainage ditch among the reeds and tall grass next to an open field on an old country dirt road in southern Allegan County, Michigan.
Fresh mint has many uses. Mint is believed to have medicinal uses such as aiding in digestion. It is noted to use caution before using in abundance without consulting your physician.
” Although many have been used by traditional healers around the world for centuries, most herbs haven’t undergone rigorous testing for safety and efficacy, especially in pregnant/nursing women, children, elders, and people with chronic illnesses.”(Boyles, 2019)
In the culinary world, it gets used to enhance flavor to many dishes. It’s used as a garnish on a dessert plate, brighten up the flavor of a salad and can be used in beverages from lemonade to tea. That’s just a start to the many uses this wild herb has to offer. I have included the recipe for one of my favorite summertime drinks, Blackberry Mint Lemonade.
Blackberry Mint Lemonade:
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups fresh blackberries
- 8 cups water divided (2 cups to be used for simple syrup)
- 2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
- 2-3 TBSP fresh chopped mint
Combine sugar and mint in a bowl. Muddle the mint into the sugar until the sugar starts to turn powdery and the mint is incorporated into the sugar. Combine mint and sugar into a pan with 2 cups of water. Heat until the sugar is dissolved and all you see is the mint leaves. Leave on medium-low heat and allow the mint to steep into the simple syrup.
In a separate pan, add the blackberries and cook on a medium-low heat. Use a potato masher and break down the blackberries until they are almost a liquid and combine with the simple syrup. Strain the simple syrup and blackberries into a separate container. We want to eliminate the seeds and left over mint leaves.
Add the lemon juice, blackberry simple syrup and remaining 6 cups of water into a pitcher. Stir thoroughly and refrigerate until cold. Makes about 1 gallon.
If you’d like to have a little fun with the lemonade, try your hand at making a granita. It’s a lot like shaved ice. Take a bread pan or metal pan and place it in the freezer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the pan from the freezer and pour in 4 cups of the lemonade and place back in the freezer. In an hour, pull the liquid out of the freezer and scrape up with a fork whatever has started to freeze. Set a timer for 30 minutes and repeat the scraping process every 30 minutes until the liquid has completely frozen. Makes 8 servings.
Author: Margaret Boyles article: May 29, 2019 and published in the Old Farmer’s Almanac . https://www.almanac.com/news/natural-health-home-tips/benefits-of-mint-plant