Toward the end of summer, flowering mint drives the wasps and bees mad with delight.
Enjoying mint tea is nothing new to me. In my mother’s kitchen, a red and black teapot waited on her ample stovetop for someone to come in with both hands full of “barn mint,” the aromatic dark green variety that thrived around the foundation of the old red barn on Lucas Creek Road.
Before the crop could flower, my mother would lay a white sheet on an unused guest bed and spread it with tufts of mint picked at its prime. The hot summer days did their work, and soon she had tins full of it, dried, for that same black and red teapot, on cold wintry days.
In these later busy years, I had gotten away from the daily ritual of fresh aromatic mint gathered and brewed. Instead, I kept bottles of Gator Ade stocked in the garage for my husband to take to work at the Virginia Living Museum. This spring, when he left his weekend manager position there, I decided it was time we both had a change.
I went about the garden snipping the newest several pairs of leaves off the mint growing here and there in various patches:
The fat, fluffy mint that came from my mother’s garden along with her irises.
The pointed leaves of spearmint that came in a little pot from Jimmy’s Produce, our neighborhood garden center.
The eager chocolate mint brought in honor of our house’s 100th birthday by cousins John and Lori Mumaw.
The apple mint daughter Anje shared from the start a Waynesboro neighbor gave her. Along with the plant, she learned that she and this neighbor, Heather, share the same great-great-grandfather. Poet, orchard man, bee-keeper and flower grower S.P. Yoder was no doubt smiling down on that small exchange of herb and history.
I gathered a bit of lemon balm while I was at it and then I was ready.
I poured boiling water over the pile of mint and lemon balm leaves, brought it back almost to a boil. Then I let it steep for a few minutes, covered.
I dumped a scoop of sugar in the bottom of my enamel pitcher, added several thin fresh lemon slices, and some lemon juice. I poured the steeped mint liquid in and mixed everything well.
Then I added ice and water to fill.
The garden concoction hit the spot served with fresh green sprig of mint and a lemon wedge in an ice-cold mug!
Now the retired guy keeps a cold mug in the freezer ready for a fill-up when coming in all sweaty from the yard or garage.
Susan Yoder Ackerman is a writer and gardener in Newport News, Virginia. Both her writing and her gardening are enhanced by tending a century-old family farmhouse and eight grandchildren that come and go. You can email Susan at [email protected].