WHAT IS IT?
A herb in the mint family, calamint, which is grown, and consumed, all over the world, is very rarely offered commercially as a spice, in dried form.
The taste is mildly pungent, like spearmint, but much warmer. It has notes of orange, oregano, marjoram, and mint. The dried leaves are a lead spice, not a role player.
Fresh, the flowers are edible, delicate, and delightful, as a finishing flavor in salads, or as a garnish for egg dishes.
In Tuscany, whose cuisine takes advantage of the plentiful calamint growing wildly in cracks and crags everywhere, the local recipes use it more like oregano, in savory dishes. There’s a fair amount of it used in Sicilian cooking, as well.
Like oregano, its essential oils, especially its dominant e-oil, pulegone, work well because it permeates meats, and the fats in meats, very well. It also works with vegetables, legumes, and fungi that absorb fats, like mushrooms, beans, and artichokes.
Occasionally, fresh, it doubles for basil.
In North America, we find it under the Tuscan name, nipitella. You have three options:
- Buy the dried, which is a tad pricey, per ounce, due to its one limited distributor;
- Buy the plant at a nursery. Calamint is grown around the world. In North America, you’ll find that it’s used as a pretty ground cover (Lesser Calamint, or Calamintha Nipenta)
- Grab some seeds, or a cutting from a plant, and grow your own fresh. It grows very easily from a cutting stuck into the ground, and watered periodically (A dry soil plant.).
Calamint can overpower other flavors. Use sparingly.
Native across Southern Europe, the Mediterranean, it has been transplanted all over the world. It grows in Eastern Europe, and some parts of the Americas. It flourishes in arid landscapes, and in wastelands.
- Fusili with pecorino romano and calamint;
- Braised artichokes with calamint;
- Tortino de patate e funghi (A tart with mushrooms, potatoes, and cheese;
- Cassiedu – A goat cheese made with nipitella.
A FEW IMPROVISATIONAL RIFFS:
- Sea bass ceviche topped with calamint;
- Tagine with lamb, tomatoes, mushrooms, and calamint couscous;
- Bay shrimp cheese and calamint savory muffins;
- Peanut beef stew finished with calamint.
Calamint has been used in Southern Europe since the early Roman civilization.
- basil thym
- emperor’s mint
- jeruk nipis
- kev puas tsuaj
- lesser calamint
- mountain balm
- mountain mint
- mill mint
- mill mountain
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