Sunday, 25 September 2011

Tried and tested: Water Mint Tea

As a self confessed mint lover I couldn't resist the opportunity to forage some water mint recently whilst visiting a historic water mill. Thankfully I didn't even get my feet wet in the process as I volunteered my Dad for the job!

Water mint is the UK's commonest waterside mint and is widespread by the edges of streams, in woods and damp meadows, flowering between July-September. It is a vigorous perennial that grows in the water itself and the plant rises above the surface of the water. It can be grown very successfully in garden ponds but it would be best to grow it contained within a pot as it will spread like other mints! Water mint is a great 'butterfly friendly' plant, with peacocks and small tortoiseshell butterflies particularly being attracted to its flowers.

If you want to forage for water mint it is important to remember one key rule - check the water quality first! This means making a simple visual check that the water is moving fairly rapidly and the plant life appears healthy. Never forage water mint in stagnant water or next to a road. It would also be best to avoid any streams directly next to grazing pasture.

The picture below shows the fast moving current where we picked the mint:

It is best to pick mint when it is just starting to flower. Pick the healthy green growth and discard any damaged or mottled leaves. The picture below shows healthy water mint surrounded by wild growing watercress.

Water mint can be used in the same ways as any other mint. It has a peppermint flavour and makes a pleasant mild tea. The leaves should be steeped in hot (but not boiling) water for around 5 minutes. The picture below shows the final brew. I certainly wouldn't recommend water mint above the best cultivated mints but it is fun to try something different and completely natural. Personally, my favourite mint for tea is the wonderfully crisp and delicious flavour of Chocolate Peppermint, which I drink regularly throughout the summer months.  

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