Native to the Mediterranean and Asia, mint is somewhat of a mystery – we know that several different species exist, but nobody knows exactly how many. It is estimated that there could be around fifteen, but the distinction between them is not always clear, and hybrids are common and naturally occurring. Very mint-sterious!
What we do know is that the name of the herb derives from the ancient Greek mythological character Minthe, a river nymph. The story goes that Hades, God of the Underworld, fell in love with Minthe. His wife Persephone found out and was understandably pretty cross, so she took the reasonable step of turning Minthe into a plant, so that she would be walked on and crushed by passers-by. Hades was obviously kind of peeved about his side piece being turned into a plant on the floor, but was unable to do anything to reverse the spell. What he did manage to do, though, was to give the plant a nice aroma, so that at least he would still be able to smell his former lover whilst she was getting trodden on. What a gent.
The warm summer months are high season for mint, so get down to your greengrocer now and look out for the perky green leaves – you want a deep colour and no sign of wilting, ideally. We’ve got one idea for what you could do with the mint below, our own recipe for a summery pearl barley salad. Enjoy!
Minty pearl barley salad with feta and orange-roasted veg (serves 4)
I eat loads of pearl barley because it’s a great ingredient to make a salad actually filling. This particular recipe is nice served either warm or cold, and works really well to take in a box for lunch the next day. Let me know if you have a go at it! Recipe is below.
250g pearl barley
1 butternut squash, chopped into chunks
2 small courgettes, sliced
4 unpeeled cloves of garlic
Zest and juice of 1 orange
A 200g pack of feta
A few sprigs of fresh mint
½ tsp allspice
Tbsp soy sauce
Squirt of sriracha
- Put the butternut squash and courgette in roasting tray with the cloves of garlic, half of the orange zest and juice, a few dashes of olive oil, and some salt. Cook at 190 for 35 minutes. Allow to cool before placing the veg into a large bowl, and fishing out the cloves of garlic to set aside for the dressing.
- To cook the pearl barley, add cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for 25-30 minutes. When it’s done, rinse it in a sieve under cold water then add to the bowl.
- Finely chop the mint and feta and add to the bowl.
- For the dressing, combine the other half of the zest and juice, soy sauce, allspice, and sriracha in a jug. Peel the roasted garlic cloves, chop them up and add to the jug. Pour the dressing over the combined ingredients in the bowl and give it a big stir.
- Serve and enjoy!