I started working young. That's pretty typical of farm kids I'd guess. My dad continues to advice one of the most important tasks of parenting is to assign responsibility early on, and I agree with him. There is no doubt my siblings and I learned the value of hard work and earning our own way as a result. It taught us confidence and to take risks even when the task seem daunting or we failed. When I was about nine-years-old my dad offered if I did the work of an adult, he would pay me an adult wage, granted minimum wage in the '80's was a whopping $3.25 but then again a candy bar was like .25! The peppermint fields he had planted required hand-weeding to ensure flavor and production. My sister Sarah and I would join the adult crew, often local housewives, and pull weeds for hours, packing our piles out of the rows and sometimes tackling weeds taller than we were - Canadian thistle and Mullen. There was a horrible weed called Hinbit, a parasitic plant with prolific reach which we wound into balls and stuck to ourselves like Velcro. That was fun until the rash developed. Weeding was hard, no doubt, but the peppermint smelled delicious, I loved being outside, and I daydreamed of the Bongo jeans I could buy with my hard-earned cash.
Of course, my dad's favorite story to tell about me and peppermint involves sabotage. My mom was visiting her parents in Washington and absent for pretty much the first time in forever. My dad tried- we weren't starving - but were living basically on eggs and venison neither of which I was fond of as a kid. It was a hot summer afternoon and dad was working like crazy to fix our well and get the irrigation back up and running to water the crops. He was hot and sweaty. We all were. His fuse was short and the three whining, hungry kids were not helping the situation. He told us to make ourselves useful and pull some weeds while he worked. We sat in the field breaking off weeds - the sun had baked the ground and getting the roots was impossible. Irritated, I hatched a plan. I whispered it to my co-workers, my siblings. I proposed if we began to pull the peppermint rather than the weeds, dad would have to take us the rootbeer stand for lunch or face loosing his crop. Dad started laughing and told us to jump in the truck. That rootbeer float was the best I ever tasted.
Peppermint is a perennial herb with vigorous, spreading roots. It is propagated from its roots rather than seed and developed as a natural hybrid of water mint and spearmint. The flavor comes from oil produced in cells on the underside of the leaves. As a kid I loved to chew the leaves picked straight from the field. These days, I prefer to drop a few leaves into my water or tea to add a fresh taste. Peppermint certainly classifies as a heritage plant - and has been used for medicine and flavor from the time of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. As an essential oil, it has been shown to improve focus and energy, alleviate headaches and digestive issues. It can be applied topically or ingested. Second only to chocolate it reigns as a favorite and popular flavor. Of course, imitation oils abound and even brand name oil is often diluted with carrier oil or additives to preserve flavor. Our oil is 100% pure, natural food grade oil and distilled locally. It is strong so a little goes a long way.
A few years ago my dad offered my oldest daughter, Elaina, who was eight at the time, to partner with him in direct marketing his peppermint oil. Our small town had recently developed a community market with a special section for kids to sell. Elaina and I developed a logo, purchased amber bottles and began selling the oil. With the renewed interest in essential oil, the market was ready and she's enjoyed great success, splitting her profit with her grandpa and saving the rest for college. She diversified her product line with beeswax and coconut oil peppermint lip balms. Her products are stocked at the Shops at Station 8 in Columbia Falls and KlipTrix in Kalispell. It is also available now on our website. She is certainly learning responsibility and work ethic; she's becoming quite the farm kid.
I'll be posting recipes using our pure peppermint oil including natural beauty products, cocktails and drink flavorings, and peppermint flavored treats in future post. I hope you will try some!