Lovely Lemon Balm

comments (7) November 3rd, 2009

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TheresaLoe TheresaLoe, member
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Lemon BalmClick To Enlarge

Lemon Balm

Photo: Photo by Theresa Loe

Have you ever grown a plant for so long that you started to assume everyone already knew about it?

That happened to me the other day when someone visited my garden and asked, "What is this lovely smelling plant?" 

My first response was to say, "Oh that? It's just lemon balm." Poor plant! Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is is anything but ordinary and it deserves better than that.

What makes lemon balm so special is its wonderful lemony fragrance. It is a gentle scent and not overpowering. Brush the plant with your hand as you walk by and it fills the area with this delicious fragrance. It's leaves are light green and oval-shaped with dainty scalloped edges. It does flower, but they are just tiny, white and inconspicuous.

In Food:

I cook with my lemon balm. It adds a delicate lemon zest flavor to foods without being bitter. Use it as you would a lemon in cooking with fish, poultry and vegetable recipes. The leaves can also be used in fruit deserts, ice cream, custard and pastry. In beverages, lemon balm works well in hot or cold tea, punch or a tangy lemonade. You can use the leaves fresh or dried.

In Crafts:

I also use lemon balm in flower arrangements, adding scent to the bouquet. If you like to make potpourri, lemon balm is a great addition to your sweet and citrus recipes. When the leaves dry, they hold their fragrance well. Mix with spices, citrus peels and other lemon-scented herbs for spring scented blend.

In the Garden:

Lemon balm is related to mint and can actually look a bit like mint in the garden. However, it is not as invasive. Lemon balm grows as a small bushy perennial and reaches about 2-3 feet tall. It spreads in clumps, much slower than mint and and is fairly easy to keep under control. I just divide mine every other year and give clumps to friends. Lemon balm can be a problem in that its seeds tend to spread making it a bit weedy. The solution is to cut the seed heads before they burst. However, in my southern California garden, lemon balm has always acted like a lady and has never gotten out of hand.

Grow lemon balm in full sun to partial shade. It can be propagated by seeds, layering or division. The seeds germinate best if left uncovered. In warm winter climates like mine, you can cut the lemon balm down to the ground in the fall and wait for new growth in the spring. In cooler areas, be sure to mulch heavily after cutting back. It will survive and come back when the weather warms up.

posted in: herbs, lemon balm

Comments (7)

martinblair54 writes: Keep it up
Posted: 5:01 am on November 4th
timmybell writes: Its useful.
Posted: 5:07 am on September 29th
jesushale writes: This is very useful.
Posted: 6:02 am on March 3rd
SixtaSisco writes: I feeled fresh....lovely!!!
Posted: 4:29 am on August 31st
LucyAustin writes: i truly appreciate yur work
Posted: 3:17 am on August 19th
marktotti writes: nice job
Posted: 7:14 am on July 31st
CarrieCave writes: impressive work
Posted: 4:50 am on July 16th
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