Sunday, September 25, 2011

Harvesting and Caring for Lemon Balm

I haven't blogged about herbs lately and thought I would talk a bit about harvesting and caring for lemon balm today. I grow thyme, oregano, lemon balm, chives, lavender, calendula, catmint, sage, Lady's Mantle and bee balm. I actually grew more herbs in the city but had to leave them behind when we sold the house. I've been slowly adding more herbs each year.

Lemon balm is an herb I've grown for about ten years now. It's related to mint, which is important to remember because it grows much like mint in that it can easily become invasive. It will spread from the roots and from seed. Once it takes hold, like mint, it's hard to control. This is the only problem I've encountered in ten years. Lemon balm is a carefree plant, needing no fertilizer or extra watering. I've grown it in sun and shade with success in both locations.

Eleanour Sinclair Rohde, a well known and loved garden writer and herb expert, has this to say about lemon balm in her book Herbs and Herb Gardening written in 1936:

"Balm in rich, moist soil attains well over two feet, and a border of it, two feet wide, looks very handsome. "

"Young balm leaves cut up finely are a good addition to mixed salads, and balm tea made by pouring boiling water on two big handfuls of the leaves has a sweet and delicate taste."

Lemon balm is a sturdy and very hardy herb. It can be harvested often and cut almost to the ground before winter. It doesn't hold it's flavor well during drying, but if you add it to other herbs as part of a seasoning blend or tea, it adds a light lemon taste. I've used it for many years in herb vinegars, combining it with basil, thyme and oregano.

Fresh lemon balm can be used in sun tea or hot tea, as mentioned. It also adds a lovely flavor to roast chicken when stuffed in the cavity of the bird.

Lemon balm should be harvested before it's blooms to stop it from forming seeds. Keep it contained and dig up volunteers as soon as they pop up. The perfect location is one where it can roam free in its own small raised bed in partial shade with fertile soil. It can also be used as a ground cover with success.

One of the first herbs my daughter loved was lemon balm. She was only 3 years old, and would ask if she could pick a leaf to hold and smell because she loved the scent. Lemon balm will always have a place in my garden.

On OFL we have tips on growing and using rosemary, another favorite:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave us a tip, a comment or just say hi!