Growing and Using Lemon Balm

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. Continue Reading →

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