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Lemon Balm

Learn the medicinal and culinary uses of lemon balm, how to grow it, and how to make your own traditional carmelite water.

| Summer 2013

  • To get the best flavor out of lemon balm, shear it with scissors, cutting it down by half or more, at least once a month. You can safely harvest three-quarters of the plant every three to four weeks and not harm it.
    Photo By Jim Long

Make great culinary use of your lemon balm with Long Creek's Lemon Balm Cookies Recipe, and Lemon Balm Lemonade Recipe.

 

Often when someone asks me what my most favorite herb would be, I enjoy the surprise on their face when they hear my answer: Lemon balm, I say, without any hesitation.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) isn’t at the top of most people’s favorites list. Basil, parsley and lavender are the most popular herbs in America, but lemon balm isn’t even on the top 10 list. But it is deserving of considerably more recognition.



Lemon balm is a perennial herb from the mint family (Lamiaceae). The plant, originally from the Mediterranean, is reliably hardy in nearly all parts of the United States. The mildly lemon-scented leaves are the parts used for tea, cookies, cakes, and medicines. One of my garden interns even made a lemon balm pie last year!

Since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, lemon balm has been cultivated as a valuable culinary and medicinal herb. It was once traditional to rub lemon balm leaves around the openings of bee hives to encourage the bees to produce more honey. For at least 2,000 years, lemon balm has been planted and encouraged in gardens and orchards to entice more bees for pollination.



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