Ever wished that chocolate grew on trees? The next best thing would be to grow it in
your garden, among your culinary herbs. That is possible, thanks to the seemingly
endless diversity of the mint family.
As its name suggests, chocolate mint is a herb that tastes like an after dinner mint. It
shouldn’t exist, but maybe it does because Mother Nature thought – “Hey! Let’s try that!”
She’s female, after all. But the fact is that it tastes wonderful and is so easy to grow that
you use it any time you want (or just chew on the leaves while you are gardening).
It does have a look of chocolate with brown-tinged leaves, but not everyone agrees that
it deserves the name. There is a controversy about the chocolate taste – is it real or not?
The general consensus among lovers of this herb is that it is definitely different from
other mints, with an underlying richness that works with a variety of recipes. According
to the Canadian nursery Richters, the herb has a striking ‘peppermint patty’ scent that
convinced them to stock it.
Try your local nursery, which can probably order it for you, or you can get it online.
When you do get your hands on one, you can stick it virtually anywhere in the garden,
because it is so hardy. It prefers cooler zones and afternoon shade but potting this plant
is best because it is also enthusiastically rampant, like most mints, and virtually
impossible to kill. Even a mint that tastes like chocolate can become a nuisance when it
invades every part of your garden.
The temptation to plunder the leaves will be strong from the fragrance alone, but let it
get some growth on before you start ripping them off. As soon as there is some decent
growth, start by trying chocolate mint tea. Just strip a few leaves, bruise them gently to
release the vital oils and drop them in a tea pot. Pour over hot water and steep for five
minutes – done! To make it even more delicious, add it to coffee for a mocha treat or
strain and add hot milk and marshmallows. You can dry the leaves like any other herb
and crumble them for flavoring cookies, cake or ice cream.
If you love chocolate liqueur, you can make your own by cramming chocolate mint
leaves into a large bottle and pour over enough vodka to fill it up. Leave in a cool dry
place for a month or two (the longer you leave it the more delicious it gets) then strain
and enjoy a sip on February 19 – that’s National Chocolate Mint Day and a great excuse