Herb Profile: Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon Balm is known for its namesake lemon scent, which is enough to charm anyone who brushes past it on a hot summer day. A perennial in the mint family, lemon balm offers true cut-and-come-again gifts that keep on giving. When in bloom, the pollenators are all over it!
Lemon balm has a rich cultural history with ancient Greek and Romans, but is especially revered by Arabian herbalists for heart disorders and depression. Indeed, Western herbalists consider it a valuable and tasty nervine which helps to soothe anxiousness and stress when drunk as a tea. The plant has also been shown to inhibit bacteria and virus proliferation when used topically. It's considered cooling, and perfect to drink iced on a hot day!
Lemon balm likes to be stored like it likes its growing environment: dry and cool. Either place it in a water-proof, air-tight container in the fridge and use within 5 days, or simply hang to dry in a cool low-light low-humidity area. I also like to make infused vinegar and tincture with the fresh herb for use in the winter. Make sure to take it down when crisp, and in a paper bag, rub the leaves off the stems with your fingers and jar or bag them up for later use.
Lemon balms unique and distinctive lemony flavor lend itself well to salads and fruit salads, punch, marinades for fish or vegetables, corn, lamb, broccoli, asparagus, and anything you could use a little lemon flavor with!
Simply remove the leaves of lemon blam by sliding your thumb and pointer finger down the stem over a bowl. Only do so just before cooking with them, as they will keep better when left on the stem.
Lemon balm can be easily dried by hanging in a low-light, low- humidity place with good air circulation on the stem. You can also use a dehydrator. We do not recommend drying in an oven, as heat will destroy flavor and color of the herb.
The Gift of Healing Herbs by Robin Rose Bennett
The Rodale Encyclopida of Herbs
Asparagus to Zucchini by Fairshare Coalition
Produce: A fruit and vegetable lover's guide by Bruce Beck
Our own experience!