2.16 Lemon balm

Botanical name: 

Photo: Melissa officinalis 8. Latin name: Melissa officinalis.

2.16.1 Growing Lemon balm

From: jera.ksu.ksu.edu (JR Schroeder)
Lemon Balm, is a hardy perennial member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). I've found it easy to propagate from seed or by dividing the clump in spring or late August; cuttings don't seem to work well. A mature plant forms an ordinary-looking rounded clump that's about 2' across. It doesn't spread as rampantly as some of it's relatives, although it can become weedy if you let it go to seed (this is a good way of getting little plants to share, though :) ).

There is a variegated form, very attractive but less vigorous (it is hardy in my Zone 5 winters). I've found that if you stress this form, it reverts to completely green, until it recovers from the stress (which may take the rest of the season). I haven't tried propagating this one from seed; it is true from cuttings and divisions.

2.16.3 Using / Preserving Lemon balm

From: doliver.minerva.polaristel.net, Northwind Farm Publications
Someone asked about lemon balm tea: should it be used fresh or dried, etc. We are great lovers of lemon balm tea. We grow a patch of it, harvesting the leaves all summer for fresh tea. In the fall, we gather the crop and air-dry it for winter. The flavor is different depending on whether it is fresh or dried; I prefer the fresh, but dried is fine. Bruising the leaves before brewing the tea definitely intensifies the flavor.

To prepare the tea, just steep the leaves in boiling water for a few minutes. Personal taste will determine the amount to use (don't skimp) and the brewing time. Try adding some of your other favorite tea ingredients for a little variety. Chamomile and hops make a soothing (maybe sedative or soporific for those sensitive to these ingredients) combination with the lemon balm.

I have never heard of any toxic effects or contraindications to the use of lemon balm. From personal experience, I'd say it's perfectly harmless.

From: ericf.central.co.nz (Sue Flesch)

Put some fresh stalks in a muslin bag or similar and hang over hot tap while running a bath. Scents the bath beautifully. Nice dried and added to pot pourri.

> What can I do with all this lemon balm?

From: denysm.vcn.bc.ca (Denys Meakin):
It makes a good refreshing tea. Just steep a stalk with the leaves in boiling water for a few minutes. Experiment with different amounts until you get the strength of brew you like. You can dry the leaves for making tea in the winter.

Lemon Balm Cordial
From Vicki Oseland <vikio.earthlink.net>, quoting 'The Complete Book of Herbs and Spices' by Sarah Garland:

4 sprigs lemon balm
2 sprigs hyssop
2 sprigs basil
2 sprigs mint
2 sprigs sage
1 Tbs. chopped, crushed angelica root
2 oz. sugar
2 ½ cups brandy

Steep the herbs and sugar in the brandy for a fortnight, shaking occasionally. Strain and repeat with fresh herbs if the taste is not sufficiently pronounced. Strain and bottle. Take a Tbs. of this digestive before meals.

From Karen White:
Lemon Balm - it's great to snip the top 3 inches or so (7 - 8 cm) and add to iced tea.