3/21/2010

Macho Mint, Yakov Smirnoff

There's a "new" mint on the world market this week. Okay, okay, it's not new, but it is newly available and I'm excited. Last fall I was telling my friend, V.J. Billings, at Mountain Valley Growers in California, about this particularly tough and tasty mint I've been growing for the past 30+ years. She was interested and asked me to send her some.

I grow several mints including some of the new Westerfield Hybrids that Richters Herbs sells. But this mint (now dubbed 'Macho Mint') was one I found growing next to an old spring near Blue Eye, MO. Mints, as you may or may not know, are not native to North America, but have often escaped cultivation and "gone wild." This one had been growing near and old farmstead for half a century, possibly longer. I found it while exploring an old gravel road, in 1979 and it was well established around the old spring - whose stream you had to drive through to travel the little trail.

'Macho Mint' is remarkable for several reasons: First, it has a strong, deliciously refreshing mint flavor. It is my favorite for making what I call, "cold-pressed mint tea" in summer when we have guests in the garden. To make that, you harvest a good sized handful of mint, stems, leaves and all, and wad it up and squeeze it a bit like you would squeeze a wet dishrag. Put that wadded up, squeezed mint ball in the bottom of a half gallon pitcher. Then fill the pitcher completely to the top with ice, then fill that to the top with water. In 5 minutes you have the most refreshing iced mint tea you have ever experienced!

 'Macho Mint' blooms nicely during the middle of summer. Josh likes to harvest just the blossom heads and dry them for winter mint blossom hot tea. But the primary reason I like this special mint is it holds up well after frost, when all of the other mints have died down. I like to pick frost-covered, or ice-covered leaves and munch them when I'm doing fall garden clean-up chores. In my garden, this mint is the first up in the spring, and the last mint to go to sleep in the late fall and a still fresh, green mint leaf, covered with ice, is a real treat!

So after playing with the mint I'd sent along, V.J. she said she thought we should name it and she'd introduce it in her spring lineup of new herbs if I was willing. Of course I was interested and had visions of a new Mentha spicata 'Jim Long' on the market. Or, 'Blue Eye Mint' or 'Long Creek Herbs' Mint. None of the names sounded quite right. Then I suggested 'Macho Mint' and we all agreed. So if you would like to try this new-very old mint, VJ has it available this year. Think of my garden when you serve cold-pressed tea to your friends this summer. (To find it go to this link, and scroll part way down the page; there aren't any photos and it's not listed on their regular mints page as they supply is probably limited this first year). Note that Mountain Valley Growers has a 6 plant minimum, they offer some outstanding herbs, so check and order more than just the Macho Mint; shipping is by 2 day select to make sure they arrive alive.


For the folks who follow me on FaceBook, you will recall the somewhat on-going, and hilarious discussion about what to call potpourri for a man. Our WWOOFer from 3 summers back, and friend, Gabe, wrote me on FaceBook asking if there was a good, manly potpourri for a man's bathroom. I simply posted the question to FB friends, "What's a better name for potpourri, when a man's using it?" and stated that I'd never liked the name potpourri anyway.

The discussion that followed was a real eye-opener in how men and women view masculinity, and words, differently. Women were suggesting things like, "Call it a floor-sweep medley," or "A melange of woodsy fragrances." I had to remind my women friends that Gabe has a girlfriend, drinks lots of beer and probably wouldn't want a bowlful of "melange" or "medley" in his very un-girly bathroom. Some of the men's comments were, "Just call it smelly s**t" and "Smeller for the pooper room."

I finally settled on "Man-Pourri" not because it's a great, masculine name, but because it, at least, makes fun of the word potpourri. Probably I should have just gone back to the origin of the French name, potpourri, which literally translates, pot pourri to mean, "rotten pot" due to it having been a pot into which you placed salt and flowers and the more congealed it became, or the more rotten with the flowers' oils, the better it smelled. Rotten Pot, would be a perfect name for a straight, earth-friendly college guy!

Here's what I came up with for Gabe (that's him in the pic, above with Yakov Smirnoff in Branson, and above that with a crawdad he caught in our lake cove). I mixed some spruce and fir clippings, pine needles, cedar limbs and leaves chopped up, dried orange peel, some Japanese bitter, hardy oranges (Poncirus trifoliatum), tree lichens, broken cinnamon sticks, allspice, cloves, cedar shavings, some leather clippings (yes, they have fragrance, too) and a couple of hot peppers thrown in just for color.

To me it smelled nicely woodsy and masculine. But Gabe says it isn't strong enough and doesn't last long, so I'm back to the drawing board to see what else I can come up with. It would, I believe, be a good Dream Pillow blend so I'm going to sleep on it and see.

8 comments:

Sharon Lovejoy said...

"Man pourri" sounds good to me.

V.J. Billings is great. I hope many people order from her. The way her herbs are shipped is stunning. Out of about 4 dozen or so not one was injured in shipping.

Her stock is fabulous.

Love to you and Josh,

Sharon

Jim Long said...

Thanks, Sharon. Yes, VJ is a wonderful lady, although I've never met her in person. She sells our books and has an outstanding knowledge of herbs. Say hey to Jeff for us.

Lindy said...

Man-pourri. Sounds interesting. Even more interesting is the kind of dreams this "blend" might invoke. Keep us posted :)

As for Macho-Mint - I am going to order some immediately before it is all gone. I can hardly wait to try your recipe for cold-pressed iced tea.

Lindy

Kim said...

I'm such a pushover when it comes to a good herb promo... I was about to order your mint from MVGs, but the shipping charges stopped me. Apparently shipping one plant from CA to the Ozarks is less than cost-effective ($24!). Bummer.

(Thanks for the tip on NPR, Jim... I listen to the Springfield station often, apparently just didn't catch it on the right day!)

Jim Long said...

I checked with VJ at Mountain Valley and here's what she said about shipping, which I believe is quite fair:

Hi, Jim,
We have a minimum order of six plants (can be any six). To your area the plants travel by 2 day air (they need to be alive when they arrive!) and the cost for shipping 6 is 17.75. 24.00 dollars is for 12 plants.

Thanks.

VJ Billings
Mountain Valley Growers, Inc.
The nation's largest supplier of USDA
certified organic herb, perennial and vegetable plants.
www.mountainvalleygrowers.com

Grumpy Gardener said...

OK, Jim, I'm waiting for you to post your new song:

Macho, macho mint
I want to grow some macho mint

Kim said...

Oh... a six-plant minimum. I must've missed that somehow. I put one Macho Mint in my cart and saw the $17 shipping and backed out.

Thanks for checking on that, Jim. Hope I didn't sound as crabby as I'm now afraid I did. I was chattering more than complaining.

Stefan said...

hello. i'm just curious if this mint sets seed. i mean if the flowers have stamens. thanks!

it would be nice to see this mint into europe's market also :D

cheers!