Times columnist Philip Potempa will share candy cane peppermint origins and holiday food traditions on the 8 a.m. Sunday NBC 5 Chicago television newscast.
Peppermint's name derived from the plant's pepper-like taste, while spearmint was named for its arrow-shaped flower spires. The oil harvested from the foliage, prized for taste and aroma, is a vital ingredient used in everything from chewing gum, toothpaste and candy to medicine and cleaning supplies.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Indiana ranks fourth in peppermint producing 293,000 pounds and fifth in spearmint, producing 81,000 pounds.
Candy canes were first created in 1670, in Cologne, Germany, after a choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral wanted a quick candy remedy to quiet noise caused by children in church during the tradition Christmas Eve services. He asked a local candy maker to transform peppermint sticks into a curved crook shape, to symbolize the staffs carried by shepherds, as a nod to the Nativity.
This and other centuries-old symbolism will be explained during the live segment by Potempa with NBC morning anchor Lauren Petty.
In addition, he will share the recipe for Mint Mojito Cake, a 2008 winner at the North Judson Mint Festival's Cooking with Mint contest, as featured in his third cookbook, "Further From the Farm: Family Recipes and Memories of a Lifetime."NBC 5 is a broadcast media partner with The Times Media Co.