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Flavor 1: Chocolate Mint

March 12, 2014
Debra Maslowski at Earth Echoes FarmAt Earth Echoes farm in Swannanoa, NC, Debra Maslowski is busy preparing for the start of tailgate markets on May 6. Originally from Minnesota and a soapmaker by trade, Debra has been in Asheville for 10 years and teaches soap making classes at A-B Tech. She started growing herbs through her soapmaking, which piqued her interest in learning about the different varieties and their uses. In addition to herbs, Debra grows vegetables like lettuce and kale and also sells woodland medicinals.

Debra purchased Earth Echoes farm last December. She uses the permaculture method for her herbs, and has several experimental beds including one using hugalculture (hugelkultur), a method of growing on a base of logs and branches.

When I visited, she was getting her greenhouse in order and keeping her loose chickens safe from hawks. "The produce stand is going to be over there," she said, showing me around her property. We go into the greenhouse and Debra pulls a small pot from the shelf. She gives me one of the seedlings to smell and I rub the leaves and bring them to my nose. "Chocolate mint," she says. The chocolate flavor of the baby mint leaves is discernible, but not fully developed. "That will come as it grows to full size," Debra explains.

chocolate mint seedlings Debra tells me there are hundreds of varieties of mint. Fruit punch mint, candy cane mint, lemon mint, ginger mint, pineapple mint -- she keeps stumbling upon new interesting varieties from different mint cultivars on the Internet. Debra loves mint for its antibacterial and anti fungal properties. She had 15 kinds, she said, but the cold winter left her with only 10.

Chocolate mint is her most popular variety. In fact, she says, it sells so much that she can't keep up with the demand. According to Debra, chocolate mint grows well in almost any soil, it can be used in a number of items and is easy to propagate.

Debra uses chocolate mint not only for soap, but also for tea and making ice cream. For tea, she likes to blend it with mountain mint, a vanilla mint native to this area. And for delicious homemade ice cream, she blends the chocolate mint right in with the milk. She shares with me a great idea for fruit salad:

For better flavor, listen to her explain it.

Chocolate Mint Fruit Salad

Fresh cut fruit (melons and apples especially good)
Sugar to taste
1TB liquor (moonshine, bourbon, etc., which Deb says really helps the mint flavor get into the fruit)

Leave for a half hour in fridge to let the flavors soak in and enjoy.

"Can't you put mint in savory dishes, too?" I ask. In general, Debra explains, mint is used a lot in East Indian cooking, but she's not sure if the chocolate mint, being a sweeter mint, would be so good for that. "I'd have to try it and find out!" she said.

Find Debra Maslowski's chocolate mint, along with her other herbs and woodland medicinals, weekends at Earth Echoes Farm, 488 Bee Tree Rd., Swannanoa, NC or at these Farmer's Markets:

Marion - Tuesdays 3-6pm
East Asheville/Oteen - Fridays 3-6pm at the Groce United Methodist Church