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Lemon balm

The aromatic herb with a lemony scent that attracts bees.

Lemon balm is a plant from the mint family. It has a pleasant lemony scent, that's why it got this name. The flowers attract bees, for this reason its scientific name is melissa. Well known in aromatherapy for its soothing properties, its extract is one of the essential oils, often mixed with citronella, it is considered digestive as an infusion.

"mel" means honey in Latin and melissa comes from the ancient Greek word for bee

How to identify lemon balm

Lemon balm is a hardy perennial herb, the stem branches at the base. It has velvety serrated leaves and tiny white flowers full of nectar. The plant can grow up to 5' (150 cm) in height.

How to use and store lemon balm

Lemon balm can be found fresh or dried. Good in the kitchen as condiment for salads, omelets, stuffing for poultry, and to flavor fish and poultry stews, but more often used to add aroma to fruit desserts like, fruit salads, or candy, preserves, marmalades, jellies.Should be stored as explained in the general guidelines for storing and preserving herbs and preserving methods for herbs and spices.

Cooking with lemon balm

Lemon balm flavors ice creams, like this lemon scented carrot sorbet or it can be used in dishes like these Mediterranean tomatoes.

Lemon balm substitution - If a recipe calls for lemon balm and you don’t have it, substitute 1 Tbs fresh lemon balm, chopped, with:

  • 2 1/2 tsp fresh mint, chopped + 1/2 tsp fresh lemon verbain, chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh mint, chopped + 1 tsp fresh lemon basil, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp lemon zest, finely grated.

Substituting lemon balm for other herbs will change completely the flavor, but do experiment, you might find a hit.

You can prepare a thirst-quenching lemon balm iced tea. Try adding other herbs, like spearmint, to vary the flavor. You can also prepare your own lemon balm sorbet.

How to grow lemon balm

Lemon Balm can spread by cuttings or by seed. In grows best in mild temperate zones. The stems die off at the beginning of the winter to grow again in spring. When soil and climate are well suited, it will spread to the point of becoming a pest.

lemon balm melissa officinalis: (labiatae)

French mélisse
German zitronemelisse
Italian melissa
Spanish melisa

Lemon balm as ingredient

Recipes with lemon balm