Growing and Using Lemon Balm

lemon balm

Lemon Balm by PollyDot

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), also known as Common Balm, Lemon Mint or Sweet Balm, is an easy to grow perennial herb that has enough uses to make it valuable to grow in herb gardening or even in flower beds. The herb grows best in rich well-drained garden soil, but it will grow almost anywhere; in poor or dry soil, in full sunlight, in shaded areas, and in those that are somewhere between the extremes. It will even do well in a pot or container garden. It is also hardy and will overwinter in areas that get down to 0 degrees F. without extra mulching or additional care.

In fact, I just went out and got some, though it has been over a week since our temperatures have been above freezing. The leaves were dried, but they still taste good. Our winters get down to -30 F or below every year, yet with a few inches of leaves over the top of them, they will come back up next spring.

Unlike many other members of the mint family, balm isn’t a fast spreading plant, though it reseeds itself readily if allowed to bolt or go to seed. It has a square stem that rarely reaches over 2 feet in height, and soft rounded, barely toothed leaves that have a lemony aroma when bruised, as well as a distinctive lemon flavor. The flowers are usually whitish to pale yellow in color. The roots are shallow and fibrous, and the plant transplants well.

Lemon Balm can be grown from seeds, cuttings, or root division in the cool weather of the spring or fall. Water requirements are not heavy, but the plant roots should not be allowed to sit in water, so in poorly draining soils, either add mulch to the soil prior to planting or allow the soil to dry between watering times. It will also grow well in pots, though it does best if it is allowed to die back every year. The cuttings, put in water, root easily, as do most of the mint family, including basil.

Harvesting is done either when the fresh herb is needed or two or three times a year by clipping the plant low to the ground, before it blooms.

Lemon balm in foods

Fresh Lemon Balm leaves can be added to green salad for a wonderful additional lemony flavor. It can be put in iced tea for a very nice summertime drink and is great with lamb, pork, chicken, fish or venison. Balm makes a good tasting and refreshing tea, 2 tablespoons of fresh herb to a cup of boiling water.

Tying several sprigs of Lemon Balm together and hanging them in a room to dry will fill the room with a good lemon scent and the dried result can be added to potpourri.

Lemon balm medicinally

Medicinally, Balm will cause mild perspiration and is valuable for treating the fevers of flu. Since it aids in perspiration, it is also good to use in cold treatment. As with all members of the mint family, Lemon Balm tea is also soothing to an upset stomach.

The tea is a long time cure for insomnia and anxiety as the plant has a calming effect when taken as a tea. The crushed leaves can even be used on cold sores and minor abrasions. The tea can be used as a mild, good-smelling shampoo, too.

Lemon balm is also a natural repellant for mosquitoes and many other insects, especially biting ones.

Considering the many uses, the hardiness of the plant and the ease of growing, this is a recommended plant for the herb garden. Seeds are available from supply houses and many stores sell this herb in small pots in the spring.

We have some growing outside and several plants in pots, in the house.

 


 

 

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