A Tale of Two Mints

When Chris came back from Madison, Wisconsin from an event he was managing with a copy of a recipe for a very spicy chicken soup from a restaurant specializing in dishes from Afghanistan, he was pretty insistent. “This soup is awesome. You have to make it.” So, I went shopping for the ingredients which included chicken, split yellow and green peas and …dried mint. I had never bought mint before. The spice display had a bottle (an expensive bottle) and I read the label. Mint. Not spearmint or peppermint. Just mint. I looked for spearmint and peppermint. Nada. So, was this “mint” spearmint, peppermint or a mixture? Anxiety, masked as confusion kicked in. Okay, think. The bottle says mint, and the recipe called for mint, so I have the right stuff. Chill…just buy it and determine what it is when you get home.

I knew my chewing gum and toothpaste well enough to know that spearmint and peppermint were different. Candy canes were peppermint flavoured and that would NOT be okay. I later learned that “not okay” quality was the heavy menthol in peppermint. I knew “mint” was used in making mint jelly which could be served with lamb (aha…a meat), mint juleps and the unusual yogourt mixture that accompanied this spicy soup. My money was on spearmint.

Yes, it was spearmint and the soup was actually more of a stew and it was spicy hot and the dollop of garlic and mint (yes, garlic and mint) infused yogourt in the middle of the bowl was amazing. You could swirl your spoon to get some spicy hot soup and some of the cooling yogourt. It was an amazing flavour contrast.

If you are marrying the mint with meat, spearmint is your choice.

Fast forward to our first week or two selling herbs and spices as Love Organic Vital Energy Inc. in 2017. A well-dressed woman about 10-15 years my senior popped in front of me and told me she had a condition that could be improved with mint and asked if we carried it. I answered we carried both spearmint and peppermint. Which one is recommended? She looked taken aback and said she didn’t know. I asked about the condition, which I had not heard of before and wrote it down.

The next weekend, the woman popped up again and I smiled and said, ” Peppermint”. She looked confused. I clarified, “I researched the condition you have and the type of mint you want is peppermint. It’s the menthol in it that helps.” She looked at me oddly. I know this odd look. I have experienced it a lot in my lifetime. It’s the “I can’t believe you invested the time to figure that out look.”

Anyway, the woman quickly realized we cared enough (and were curious enough) to invest some time in research and that our business is not about selling herbs and spices. It’s about helping our customers source and use organics.

So, what about a mint tea? You can use either mint and you can blend them. Remember, any herb can be infused in boiling water for 3-5 minutes to create a tea, or perhaps, more accurately, an herbal infusion. Hmmm….infusions versus decoctions: that’s another tale.

THE Best Taco Spice

L.O.V.E. Organic’s All Organic Taco Spice

We were at the Christmas by the Sea outdoor Christmas Market in Lunenburg on King Street near Lincoln on a fairy tale like beautiful day in November. I kept saying, “When is Julia Roberts going to walk on set?” It was a spectacular day. The Lunenburg community was friendly and curious and we had a wonderful time introducing people to our organic line up of herbs, spices and our growing collection of L.O.V.E. Potions.

In the afternoon, as I was talking with a fairly large group of women, a man pushed up to the table and announced, “Your taco spice is the best I have had.” I stopped talking. Everyone stopped talking. I knew my Mom would tell me to be humble and downplay the accomplishment that was the blend’s development. Inside, I knew that this gentleman, who sounded like a shill, was a L.O.V.E. Organic enthusiastic, and his declaration was an opportunity to engage with him and the others within earshot. As the faces looked at me for a response, I waited, not Justin Trudeau 22 seconds waited, but a few moments for dramatic effect.

I summoned up my best casual “what, this old thing?” casual confidence and looked him in the eye and said,” Yeah, I know. It’s a kick ass product.” My Mom’s jaw would have dropped. A few of the women blinked…perhaps it was the language and not the bravado? Either way, they seemed to not mind, but definitely took note of the unapologetic acceptance and endorsement of his compliment. But seriously folks, if you are going to make something awesome, you have gotta own it. Creating and operating this business along with my fellow spice adventurer and husband, Chris, has provided me with the greatest opportunity to learn to accept compliments.

I had a discussion with the man that the others listened to carefully. He was from Halifax and was down for the day with his wife. He had tried our taco spice, likely from Pete’s Fine Foods, as I did not know him. It’s in his honour, that I title this article.

So, how did this cute kraft envelope come to contain THE BEST TACO SPICE? It started with a child who is highly allergic. As the parents of a child who can die from food, you become obsessed with reading labels. The grocery store varieties of taco spice use wheat flour as a binder, to help the spices cling to the meat. Our child won’t die from wheat, but it is one of many food sensitivities she has. Years ago, I began blending a rudimentary taco spice to avoid the wheat in the grocery store varieties. Once we found the all organic herbs and spices that we now use in L.O.V.E, I started to seriously tinker with our family taco spice recipe over several years. Here’s what’s awesome about our perfected blend:

ANCHO PEPPER Rather than paprika, we use this mild yet boldly flavoured pepper powder with about 2000 heat units as the base. Cayenne is about 35,000 heat units, so you can see it has some heat, but is in no way overpowering. As it has more flavour, you use less. Our 30g package will season 3 to 7 pounds of ground beef, depending on how much you want your food to talk to you. I like my food to kiss me with some enthusiasm, so I get about 3 pounds seasoned from 30g. By the way, that 25-35g package in the grocery store: it’s not organic and it seasons one pound of ground beef. Cue the trumpets: Our all organic taco spice is a BARGAIN.

REAL SALT (TM) Real Salt is a brand of natural salt that is rich in trace minerals. It’s expensive, but we believe it is an ingredient in line with the quality of our products.

ORGANIC TAPIOCA STARCH A binder helps the spices cling to the food. The grocery store varieties have lots of binder, in the form of inexpensive wheat flour, which is one of Canada’s ten official allergens. Our organic tapioca starch is gluten-free and comes from a low allergen mill in Quebec.

MEXICAN OREGANO I haven’t seen another taco spice with an herb, let alone this amazing cousin to Lemon Verbena. What? Lemon Verbena? Yes, Mexican Oregano is not an oregano, a mint family member. It is a relative to the strongest of the lemon herbs, Lemon Verbena. Don’t believe me, check out the leaves. The family resemblance is undeniable. The difference between the two is Mexican Oregano has a LIME tone, not lemon. That’s why it pairs perfectly with various peppers. L.O.V.E. is the only source for Mexican Oregano in Nova Scotia. At least, that is what we are told. Psst…and ours is organic.

So, who cares about Mexican Oregano, Ancho Pepper, Real Salt and tapioca starch? Only lovers of multi-layered flavour awesomeness that clings to your food and is a good value.

Who cares about organics? People who don’t want to ingest chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

So who L.O.V.E.s our all organic taco spice? The man in Lunenburg, the people for whom we make 100g bags, because “I use it on everything.” and people who want foods made without gluten. (Our facility is not gluten free, but our ingredients and equipment are.)

So, do yourself a flavour and try L.O.V.E. Organic’s L.O.V.E. Potion #1, Taco Spice. Try it on beef, chicken and fish tacos, fajitas, nachos, sprinkled on roasted vegetables and drum roll: Shepherd’s pie. Why do we eat blandly seasoned Shepherd’s pie? My newest obsession is home made hummus and I use our taco spice as one of many various seasonings for this healthy dip. Our homemade version is 100% Organic.

You can find our Taco Spice by contacting us directly, through Alderney Landing’s Farmers’ Market, Pete’s Fine Foods in Halifax and Bedford, the Grainery on Agricola Street in Halifax and True North Seafood (AC Covert) on Higney Avenue in Dartmouth. Yes, we can supply businesses such as caterers and restaurants, too.

Want THE best taco spice?

Just ask,”Where can I find L.O.V.E.?”