Lemon balm, Melissa officinalis, has beautiful crinkled bright green leaves and the delicious sweet fragrance of lemons. It is hardy; a strong grower that allows me to give divisions to anyone who admires it in the garden.
I love having lemon balm in the garden for the simple pleasure of its scent when I brush it. Functionally, for the most part I use lemon balm fresh in iced tea or other summer drinks. However, it can be preserved by drying.
Like all herbs it should be harvested before it flowers. Chose a day that is hot and when warm dry weather is predicted for several days. Cut the whole stem and leaves, leaving enough stem to produce another crop. Be careful not to bruise the leaves as you work. Gently place the stems on drying trays in the shade, or in an attic heated by the summer sun. You can also hang them inside paper bags, and let them dry in that same shady place.
Historically lemon balm tea, possibly sweetened with honey, has been credited with granting long life .
Two weeks ago I was seduced by a six pack of lettuce at the garden center. On March 31, after a warm spell, I succumbed and planted it in the sunny herb bed in front of the house. Since then it has surived some frost, but I’m beginning to think my optimistic welcome of spring was a big mistake. There is a dusting of snow on the ground this morning.