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I've been interested in making tabouli, but the "fresh mint" part is incredibly expensive where I live. Since I have a huge bag of loose leaf mint tea (nothing but mint), I was wondering if I could use that instead. Would that work? I assume adding the boiling water to it will re-hydrate it.

Also, how would I decide how much to use (for example, one recipe I was looking at said "1 cup fresh mint")?

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Just curious, how much is a bunch of fresh mint where you are? –  ElendilTheTall Mar 28 '11 at 12:17
    
@eleven I'm curious too considering mint grows like a weed. –  mfg Mar 28 '11 at 14:06
    
My mind boggles at the idea of mint--at least spearmint--being expensive. It grows like a weed. The main problem is preventing it from taking over! –  SAJ14SAJ Jun 10 '13 at 19:04
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I have always wondered how in anglosaxon speaking countries, people think that "mint" is always the same as "mint", just because it has the same name. In fact, spearmint tastes as different from peppermint as thymian from oregano. Almost all cooking recipes I know of are meant for spearmint, except for some sweet applications. All mint tea I have encountered is made from peppermint, not from spearmint. So while you can use dried spearmint instead of fresh mint, using mint tea is a bad idea, unless yours happens to be an exception made from spearmint.

You could try finding out if a herbs seller has dried spearmint, but you must remember that it has less aroma than fresh spearmint. Also, dried mint does approximate the aroma of the fresh one when used as a herb, but when used in big quantities (you mention 1 cup) as a vegetable on its own right, the substitution is much more problematic, because juiciness and texture are much more different.

I don't know about the situation where you live, but spearmint isn't used much in Western countries, except maybe England, so it is seldom available at supermarkets and costs a lot there. A better source are Turkish grocery shops, where it is as common as parsley, and the price is comparable. If there are Turkish shops nearby, it is definitely worth trying to find it there.

For a longer term solution, it might be a good idea to grow your own spearmint in pots. The plant is quite unassuming and easy to care for, and a kitchen which smells of fragrant herbs is nicer than one which smells of frying grease or cleaning products.

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+1 for growing your own. It ease one of the easiest herbs and can find unexpected usage in even savory dishes. –  Sobachatina Mar 28 '11 at 15:14
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Most "mint tea" in my area (near Philadelphia, US) is either spearmint alone, or sometimes spearmint mixed with tea. Around here, where it grows as a weed, "mint" in a culinary context almost always refers to spearmint, whereas if peppermint is intended, it would be specified as such. Examples: salad with goat cheese, figs, and mint; leg lamb with mint jelly; peppermint cookies; peppermint mocha. –  Ray Nov 16 '12 at 18:16
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I've dried homegrown mint, and used it in wintertime for tabouli and suchlike. It works. Don't add boiling water to rehydrate; that'll extract the flavor from the leaves, which is not what you want here. Just stir the leaves into enough cool water to make a thick glop, and let it sit for 30 minutes or so. Mix that into your bulgur. Up the parsley to make up for the less than beautiful mint specks. It won't be quite as good as in season mint, but this time of year you're probably using greenhouse tomatoes anyway.

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So a Tic Tac and some parsley would work? –  user18689 Jun 10 '13 at 18:58
    
Sure, for certain values of 'work'. Seriously though, dried mint is a pretty common addition to middle eastern yogurt dips and such. After the leaves hydrate the taste is fine. –  Wayfaring Stranger Jun 10 '13 at 23:47
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