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Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Color Name: Lemon Balm
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), celebrated for its wide range of uses in the garden, kitchen and medicine cabinet, was Herb of the Year for 2007. This refreshingly humble member of the mint family is a hip and helpful herb.
Native to Europe, lemon balm is grown all over the world. It is grown not only in herb gardens or to attract bees, but also in crops for medicine, cosmetics, and furniture polish manufacturing. The plant grows up to 2 feet high, sometimes higher if not maintained. In the spring and summer, clusters of small, light yellow flowers grow where the leaves meet the stem. The leaves are very deeply wrinkled and range from dark green to yellowish green in color, depending on the soil and climate. If you rub your fingers on these leaves, your fingers will smell tart and sweet, like lemons. The leaves are similar in shape to mint leaves, and come from the same plant family.
Perhaps previously overlooked due to its aggressive tendencies, lemon balm is currently enjoying a revival by both herbalists and chefs alike, and its calming sensibilities are endearing themselves to our stressed-out, over-taxed bodies and minds. Indeed, as a healthy herbal tea, there can be no better tonic for uplifting spirits and relieving tension.
Aromatherapists use the essential oil to relieve anxiety, shock, depression and nightmares. Due to its antispasmodic characteristics, it is used for stress-related digestive, menstrual and respiratory problems. When combined with German chamomile, lemon balm is an effective treatment for eczema and allergies.
The mildly sedative tea eases headaches, indigestion and nausea and causes a slight dilation of the blood vessels, thus helping to lower blood pressure. When blended with other tea herbs, lemon balm adds a fresh, cheery note.
Light and fresh, lemon balm adds a splash of citrus and mint undertones to both savory and sweet dishes. Use the young tops of the plant for cooking and teas because the large, older leaves tend to have a soapy, musty flavor. It is best used fresh but can be dried quickly and stored carefully for use in teas and herb blends; on drying it will lose some of the nuance of its flavor.
Gather and use generous amounts of fresh lemon balm leaves and add after cooking whenever possible to maintain the delicate aroma. Cooking lemon balm too long will dissipate its flavor.
Growing Tips: This herb can be easy to cultivate in Plant Hardiness Zones 4 to 9 according to the United States Department of Agriculture. In zone 4, it needs well-drained sandy soil and a winter mulch or adequate snowcover to survive. In zone 7, it can be harvested at least until the end of November. While it prefers full sun (as described on most plant tags), it is moderately shade-tolerant, much more so than most herbs. In dry climates, it grows best in partial shade. It can also be easily grown as an indoor potted herb.
Lemon balm grows in clumps and spreads vegetatively as well as by seed. In mild temperate zones, the stems of the plant die off at the start of the winter, but shoot up again in spring. It can be easily grown from stem cuttings rooted in water, or from seeds. Under ideal conditions, it will seed itself prolifically and can become a nuisance in gardens.
Foliage Color: Green shades
Height: 24 Inches / Spread: 18-22 Inches
|Hardy in Zone:||4|
|Soil Moisture Needs:||
Cut Flower or Foliage
- Mass Plant
- Specimen Plant