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…