Real Men Sow

What Can I Use Lemon Balm For?

lemon balmI really wish everything grew as fast as my lemon balm plant.

I dug this speedy herb up from my mate’s dad Bob’s garden last summer. The plant had rooted itself a few yards from another one, so I nicked Bob’s trowel and lifted it for home. The plant fitted into the palm of my hand, and I had no idea what I was to use lemon balm for, but I was on a herb mission, and it was free.

Since, then my lemon balm has gone nuts. The plant is huge, towering over every other herb in the patch. There are two reasons for this: one, its growing at a faster rate than even my feed-every-hour monster of a baby boy, and two, all the other herbs get used a lot more.

Until recently, I’d never used my lemon balm plant. All I’d done so far was gaily rejoice in the lovely citrus smell after a rain shower. However, things have to change. I can’t have a plant taking up valuable space without any return. The time has come for the lemon balm to start pulling its weight.

Lemon Balm in Salads
So, I began experimenting. I’ve been trying the leaves in salads to bulk up my early harvests, and mixed in with cous cous and other garden foodstuffs for lunch. Both these experiments were good, and I enjoyed the kick that the leaves provided.

Lemon Balm Tea
I tried lemon balm tea too, by steeping a large handful of leaves in hot water for 5 minutes before draining the water into a mug. I’m much more of a strong, milky builder’s tea kind of guy, so probably not the best judge of a fresh herbal equivalent, but the lemon balm drink was all rather soothing, especially before bed time. I added a dollop of honey as well because I’ve got a sweet tooth.

Upping the ante, I tried spearmint leaves in with the lemon balm next time I made a cuppa, and this was a very tasty combination. Ailsa, who is much more refined than me and therefore a regular herbal tea drinker, deemed the drink ‘delicious’. I left the honey out too, so much better for the teeth (I need all the help in that department).

Other Uses to Try
The ever-excellent Self-Sufficientish have a tasty looking lemon balm cake on their website, which is going to be one to try for Allotment Cakes for the Weekend in the not too distant future. If Ailsa picked up on the hefty hints I was dropping and buys me an ice cream maker for my birthday, I’ll be trying some of the lemon balm recipes that can be found on the web too. This honey, lemon balm and rum ice cream sounds insanely good.

Easy to Grow
From my experience, growing lemon balm couldn’t be easier. It is happy everywhere except very poor soil and I rarely water the plant. As a member of the mint family, lemon balm will root elsewhere, so dig up these roots if you don’t want the plant to spread.

Keeping the Cats Away?
I’ve done this a couple of times and planted out elsewhere as Bob reckons lemon balm is useful for keeping cats away as they don’t like the citrus smell. I have a problem with the local cats using the same spot in my garden, so I’ll report back as to whether the lemon balm makes any difference.

Any Other Uses
Does anyone else have any interesting uses for lemon balm? I’d be keen to hear them, and you’d be helping the lemon balm extend its stay of execution – especially if I go off my new love of a pre-bedtime herbal tea…

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10 Comments

  1. Alan @ it's not work, it's gardening!May 20, 2013 at 8:46 pmReply

    This is a question I’ve asked several times (but not out loud). This plant showed up as a volunteer way in the back of my garden, and there are now 3 or 4 plants back there, the original quite large and the rest getting there too.

    Isn’t a wonderful, lemony scent enough reason to keep some in the garden? Surely you can spare a square foot to a non-edible, right?

    Oh, and if you do find a good use for this plant, please let me know!

  2. Jono

    JonoMay 20, 2013 at 8:59 pmReplyAuthor

    Yes, I’ll keep it for sure, even if I move the plant in with the ornamentals. You’re right about the scent, and it is a very attractive, evergreen perennial, so definitely a winner.

    I’m rather addicted to herb plants at the moment as it goes, so the lemon balm will stay. :)

  3. ChrisMay 21, 2013 at 5:34 amReply

    Hey Jono,

    If you’re feeling a bit alternative you could make a lip balm with it.

    Here’s the recipe:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/tv/features/growyourowndrugs/episode4.shtml

    My wife can never find her lip balm – so could be a double win?

    Chris

  4. Helle (Helen)May 21, 2013 at 7:23 amReply

    Thank for the suggestions on what to do with lemon balm. I have it all over the garden as it self-seeds prolifically. The smell is lovely, but so far I haven’t used it much, tried it in iced tea several times but found the taste disappeared. Shall give your tea a try. And I’ll be very happy if it really does work as a cat deterrent.

  5. Amy BrambleMay 21, 2013 at 12:12 pmReply

    I’ve a feeling I’ve seen a recipe for a lemon balm pesto somewhere (worth a google perhaps?) I’ve also added it to butter to make a lemon balm butter for fish or to homemade mayo with other herbs like dill/chives…

  6. Jono

    JonoMay 21, 2013 at 7:11 pmReplyAuthor

    Thanks for the suggestions everyone.

    Definitely a double win Chris. Plus free herbal tea, got to be an allotment hack that??

    Let me know if you like the tea Helen, I was pleasantly surprised.

    These recipes look good for lemon balm pesto Helen:
    http://www.healthygreenkitchen.com/lemon-balm-and-cashew-pesto.html
    http://sogoodandtasty.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/lemon-balm-pesto-pasta.html

    Will give them a try.

  7. Carole Veggie-Chicken SharpMay 21, 2013 at 7:28 pmReply

    I lurve the smell of lemon balm – just running my fingers through it is enough reason to keep it! Lemon balm tea (no honey) is very refreshing on a hot summer’s day – whatever they are. Otherwise, I just chop a few leaves in with a green salad or with pasta. Just brightens the whole thing up. Chop the leaves finely though as they feel a bit bristly!!

  8. Jono

    JonoMay 21, 2013 at 7:30 pmReplyAuthor

    Thanks Carole, I’m going to give pasta a go. I noticed that about the bristly feel, especially on the bigger leaves. quite a funny feeling!

  9. MarkMay 24, 2013 at 3:57 pmReply

    Jono you have inadvertantly reminded me what is missing from my herb patch… Lemon balm is now on the shopping list!. It will also put pay to those pesky cats hopefylly too.

    With regards to uses….it’s supposed to be good if used when making homemade ice-cream/sorbet.. I think Jamie Oliver used it on one of his quick meal programs.

  10. Jono

    JonoMay 27, 2013 at 6:33 amReplyAuthor

    Brill, thanks Mark – I have that cookbook so will have a look through. My wife did indeed come up trumps with the ice cream maker for my birthday, so I’m going to be making some ice cream soon.

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meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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