Growing the Lemon Balm Plant
Melissa officinalis Uses and Benefits
The bright green, aromatic leaves of the lemon balm plant will add flavor to your garden and your table. Growing and cooking with Melissa officinalis. Using the leaves to make herb tea.
Lemon balm's Latin name, Melissa, is derived from the Greek word for bee and was conferred upon this ancient herb because bees take so much notice of its tiny, white flowers which are nearly invisible to us!
Growing Lemon Balm
Plant it in the spring in loose, fairly fertile soil in part shade. Plants will grow in full sun but will need more water.Harvest before the plant flowers by cutting it back to 3 inch stems. The plant will bounce back vigorously.
Lemon balm reseeds readily and can become weedy if allowed to bloom too often. Frequent harvesting will prevent this.
If you want more plants, the easiest way to obtain them is to let a few flower stalks form toward the end of the growing season.
Feed as you would any kitchen herb with organic compost, compost tea, or your favorite organic fertilizer. Use the vigor of the plant as a gauge when deciding how often to feed it.
A lemon balm plant can be divided in the spring or fall. You can also save seed or take cuttings to propagate it.
Cooking with Lemon Balm
Try stuffing the cavity of a chicken with a mixture of lemon balm and rosemary stems before roasting it for a real taste treat that will fragrance the whole house as it cooks.
The lemon balm plant played an important role in the colonial herb garden. Lemons were often hard-to-come-by in those days so good housewives would use lemon balm leaves as a substitute for citrus in jellies.
Modern cooks use it in place of lemongrass or lemon zest and as a garnish.
It is an especially nice flavoring for cream sauces for fish. Bruise and simmer 2-3 leaves gently in the sauce for a few minutes and then remove them as you would bay leaves.
Unlike bay leaves, lemon balm leaves are thin and tender. You could also chiffonade them as you would basil and leave them in the sauce to add a touch of color and even more flavor.
How to Make Lemon Balm Tea
The leaves of the lemon balm plant make a good tasting herbal tea alone or in combination with other culinary herbs.
Rinse and bruise 2-3 of the fresh leaves using your fingers. Place the leaves in a cup and pour 8 ounces of hot (almost boiling) water over them.
Let the leaves steep in the hot water for 5 minutes. Drink the tea just as it is or sweeten it with a natural sweetener like honey or xylitol.
I don't like to use table sugar in herbal tea because some herbalists believe that it interferes with your body's ability to absorb the beneficial components.
Lemon Balm Uses