You'll find a list of all my blog posts in the blog archive.

Lemony teaherbs.

Blog categories: 

Of lemon balm and Moldavian dragonhead.

So everybody knows that dried lemon balm tastes of hay. Right? If you didn't, know that dried lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) tastes of hay, after about 2 months or so.

Lemon balm is a short-lived perennial - it can't take our winters, every winter. If you've only seen the first-year plant you might not recognize it in flower - the leaves are much much smaller than you're used to. It has lots of small white flowers, but it's not in any way showy - more like scraggly and untidy.

I'm told that it self-seeds profusely once you've gotten it to flower, but that has yet to happen in my garden. Which is why, whenever my token lemon balm dies, I plant a new one. Because I don't get the oodles and doodles of teensy lemon balm plants that other people go on about.

Lemony herbs are of course very nice in teas, and lemon balm is a mood lifter and gives courage - that is, as long as the herb, dried or fresh, has that lemony scent. There are other lemony herbs that work as well. One of them, a favorite, is Moldavian dragonhead (Dracocephalum moldavica). It tastes of lemon balm, and I've found that it works like lemon balm in the mood-lifting and courage-giving departments. And the dried herb keeps both scent and taste for months, if not years.

Moldavian balm is a very pretty annual; it comes in a choice of white or blue flowers. I use the aboveground parts in tea.

There are other Dracocephalums. Rub a leaf and take a sniff of it before you buy plants for your tea, not all of them taste good. For instance, the Siberian dragonhead (Nepeta sibirica) has none of the virtues of Moldavian dragonhead. Nowadays it's classed as a catnip, which should give you an idea of the scent (catpiss - yech) and taste (urk) of the plant. Sure, it's pretty, with inch-long bluish-purple flowers, but it's very tall, and flops over everything, and I've taken to ripping it out, cos it just smells so bad.

... wonder if there's actually any difference in the essential oils of the lemon balm and the Moldavian dragonhead?


When is the best time to collect for tea making? Prior to flowering?

You get much more plant mass if you pick'em in full flower.