Myriad Forms s
SUSAN HALLETT profiles a peppy kitchen staple.
ACCORDING TO Royal Cookbook, published by Parents' Magazine Press in New York, “Preparation of elaborate types of foods, one of the prerequisites of most complex societies” developed in the classical Greek period, the first society to enjoy what we would call “cuisine”. Food preparation developed further during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Until then, banquets for the kings of Sumer, Akkad and Babylon were simple feasts of whole animals such as an ox, a horse or a camel roasted in huge ovens. The Assyrian kings, however, developed the art of eating further, holding feasts in their gardens because of the mild climate. In fact, the hanging gardens of Babylon and the garden of the eighth-century BCE Assyrian king, Merodachbaladan, were famous. This king grew mint in his garden, along with other aromatic plants, mainly for their special scents.
Bible references to mint are to be found in Matthew 23:23: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of law, judgment, mercy and faith.”
Mint or “Menthe” is the name given any plant belonging to the family Labiatae (also called Lamiaceae). It is widely distributed and is usually an easily recognizable perennial herb because it creeps underground, sending up leafy shoots, usually hairy, every season. The stems have four edges and are slightly reddish. The reddish-violet flowers of mint, usually small and clustered at leaf joints often forming spikes, usually have an upper and lower lip.