If I could create my own personal fragrance, or have some sort of mechanism that made everywhere I go have a certain happy, peaceful scent, the primary element would be fresh garden mint. It smells like summer to me. And sweet tea. And the South. And all good things. I suppose the variety is technically spearmint, but I think of it as Southern mint. I have always grown mint – in pots on the deck of my first small home, to the larger vegetable beds of my current house. My mother has always grown mint, and even my grandmother, who was not a gardener, grew a few mint plants. In our hot Southern climate, it grows profusely, and the more you cut it, the more it flourishes.
I can’t really have enough mint, though some people consider it invasive and are stymied by what to do with it all. Here is the answer. This is my favorite all-purpose summer condiment. It so simple, it is hardly even a recipe at all. But I promise, the uses are endless. I love it tossed with steamed sugar snap peas, or drizzled over grilled asparagus. It is perfect with fruit, from strawberries to melon cubes. Drizzle it over fish, or brush on grilled pork chops. Use it as a dressing for a cold chicken salad, or a sauce for simple chicken breasts. Try it in slaw or over crisp lettuce. Toss it with potatoes or drizzle over sliced tomatoes. The sugar highlights the sweetness of the mint, but the vinegar really brings out its essence, with a slight edge from the lemon juice.
Summertime Mint Dressing
This is best made fresh, but will keep in the fridge in tightly sealed jar for a couple of days. The recipe easily doubles.
½ cup firmly packed mint leaves
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
½ Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Place all the ingredients in the carafe of a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into a jar, scraping the sides of the blender down to get out all of the mint.
Makes about 1/3 cup