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Friday, April 29, 2011

Get your spring cocktails in Mint condition

Spring has arrived in Salt Lake City. It is wet, it is cold, it is cloudy, but it is spring, nonetheless.  With spring comes Easter, the Kentucky Derby (about two weeks away), and the beginning of the mint cocktail season (yes, okay, it’s always mint cocktail season…).  The first mint cocktail of spring is usually a Mint Julep for the Kentucky Derby, and why not?  It’s fun to get together with friends on Derby Day, and since the race only lasts two minutes (it may be exciting, but it is short) you might as well enjoy a Julep or two, before, during, and/or after the race. 

So where do you find fresh mint?  The type of mint most commonly used in cocktails is spearmint, and most of us buy it at the grocery store (if it’s in a plastic package rather than a bunch, be sure to check it out carefully and don’t buy if any of it looks bad).  Putting store-bought mint in water when you get it home may help perk it up.  There is, however, an alternative: buy a mint plant (or two).  If you buy a live plant and keep it on a sunny window sill, it will keep growing and producing leaves and stems for quite a while, but production will necessarily be limited.  That means if you’re having a party, you might want to buy some at the store anyway.  There is another solution, though: plant it in your yard.  You will end up with plenty of mint from May through the end of October.

Now mint is a very invasive plant, so if you do plant it in your yard, choose your spot carefully so it doesn’t try to take over.  Mint spreads underground by rhizome, so new plants just seem to pop up near the old ones.  (Check out Wikipedia for more on Mint.)  My mint is between two basement window-wells on the south side of the house.  A drip irrigation sprinkler waters the area, but it is surrounded by an unwatered area, so in theory the mint will not spread too far.  Already this spring a fine crop of mint is coming in that should be ready for Derby Day.  Better check to make sure there’s enough Bourbon in the bar.

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