Did you know that wild mint grows in many parts of Alberta?
Wild mint can be found in wet areas along shores of lakes and pond or in wet places in field and ditches throughout central and northern Alberta.
Features of Wild Mint (Mentha arvensis)
Wild mint stems are square and leaves grow opposite each other along the stems. Leaves are medium green with toothed edges and a hairy underside. In mid to late summer, mint plants have light purple flowers clustered near the stem. The easiest way to tell mint apart from other plants is the strong mint smell, especially when you crush the leaves! If it doesn’t smell like mint, it probably isn’t mint! Do the smell test!
When gathering mint in wet areas, be aware that other plants such as water hemlock may be growing in the same locations. Water hemlock, unlike mint, is very toxic. Be sure to collect only mint leaves! Another thing to keep in mind when harvesting leaves is that they may be growing in ditches or under power lines that have been sprayed with herbicides. Collect only mint plants you have identified positively and make sure the location is uncontaminated.
Wild mint leaves can be steeped as a hot tea – a favorite drink of early First Nations and Metis peoples, but fresh leaves make a fantastic iced tea as well. If you collect a lot of wild mint with the stems, you can hang them to dry, then crush the dried leaves and store in an airtight jar to use for hot tea in the winter months. Wild mint is reputed to have soothing effects on the digestive system.
- 1 cup of freshly picked mint leaves (you can substitute garden mint if you are unable to obtain wild mint)
- 8 cups of water
- Honey to taste (I find the tea tastes amazing without added sweeteners!)
- Pick leaves from young healthy mint plants. Wash and rinse the mint leaves several times.
- Put the washed mint leaves in a heat-proof pitcher or pot.
- Boil water in a separate pot or kettle and pour it over the leaves.
- Let your mixture steep for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- When the steeped leaves turn a medium yellow-green colour, the mixture is ready to strain.
- Pour the mixture through a strainer into a clean jar or pitcher to separate the leaves from the tea.
- Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of honey or sugar to the strained tea if desired.
- Chill the tea before serving.
- Add extra ice if you like and enjoy the amazing taste of a wild summer!