It’s been Spring for over a month now, but I’m not sure I’ve officially welcomed it yet. Warmer weather can never come too early for me, although even I am not always quite prepared for the drastic ups and downs of Spring temps here. And I was not impressed with that freeze last weekend; both my internal thermostat and my outdoor plants were fully in warm-weather mode, and I think I’m still a little residually cold.
These reasonably chilly mornings, however, that seamlessly morph into warm (or maybe even hot) afternoons — that’s what I’m here for. I can feel my soul strengthening as the sun’s rays seep into my skin, especially when they’re only seeping and not searing, as later months will bring us.
Everything outside enjoys the idyllic spring mornings too, whenever they actually happen ... and particularly when they don’t keep arriving with sustained winds that make me complain rather than bask (I’m looking at you, Kansas). Our little oaks are pushing out crinkly little leaves, the apple trees are bright in pink-white blossoms, the grass has greened up richly and already is in mowing rotation. The lilacs bloomed, I actually planted a few pansies and vincas, and color is finally popping up all over this farmstead.
Well, at least it was, until those winds literally plastered brown dust onto everything. But hopefully by the time you read this, more miraculous rain will do its work.
I typically think of asparagus as the brave harbinger of Spring, the first fresh item in so long that I get to feature in my articles. I have harvested four spears so far, so it is technically here, but really, it’s not the first taste of Spring; neither is the upcoming rhubarb, strawberries, tender lettuce, or baby onions.
At least in this house, it’s mint.
I have an old stock tank dedicated to growing mint, since I learned years ago never to let it go unrestrained. (The lawn smelled minty fresh when you mowed, but it wasn’t exactly helpful.) But within boundaries, I love seeing the energetic green shoots spreading and filling the space. I’ve planted several different types of mint in sections of the tank, chocolate mint and spearmint and something else, and while at first they were distinct, they’ve grown together and morphed into something that, while mostly indistinguishable, is delicious nonetheless.
Mint starts popping up in the Spring at least as soon as the weeds do, which is saying something. While many cultures around the world use mint for savory cooking, I use it so much for drinking that I often just call it “tea” – but it’s technically not tea at all, it’s an herb.
That’s not to say it’s not good in dishes; in fact, mint is often surprisingly brightening and delicious on the table. I made lamb meatballs with a handful of chopped fresh mint in them last week, and while some in a fruit salad “makes sense” to us Americans, it’s just as tasty in a cucumber or tomato salad.
Yet where I love mint most of all is the simplest: stuck in some hot water. I know a lot of people like “garden tea,” or iced mint tea, in the summer, and I do too, but my favorite is hot tea. I have about a thousand different teas in my stash, but once Spring arrives, I tend to get stuck in a rut. A cozy, refreshing, grounding sort of rut: I just want a pot of hot mint tea every morning. So I make one. And I’ll keep scampering out to the tea patch every morning, whether it’s chilly out or not, I assume until the tea fades, which will be months. It’s beau-tea-ful.
Blood Orange Lavender Mint Tea
While I typically just stuff my little teapot full of mint leaves, sometimes sweetening it, sometimes not, I got all fancy for your benefit so you have something closer to an actual recipe. I also clearly don’t normally put everything on a cute little tray like this, but Benson liked it so much I actually might every now and then. He has loved mint tea for the majority of his short lifetime, in his adorable little espresso cup, which I consider one of my major parenting victories.
Prep tips: I am so whatever with my mint tea that I don’t filter it or anything, but that does mean I get little floaties towards the end of the pot, so adjust your method accordingly. If you don’t have any mint with which to make this, please let me know, as I have way more than even I will ever need.
a large handful of fresh mint, any variety
a couple slices of blood orange
1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender
4 cups boiling water
local honey to taste
Stick mint, orange, and lavender in a teapot (or a glass measuring cup if you don’t have a pot). Carefully pour the boiling water over, and let steep at least 5 minutes. I just leave all the goods in the pot while I pour out cups, but you can always remove the stuff if you want. Sweeten each cup to taste with honey.
Amanda Miller lives with her husband, almost-2-years-old son, and whoever else God brings them through foster care on the family dairy farm in Hutchinson. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.