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A refreshing aroma in your kitchen

Lemon balm has an intensively lemony aroma, sharp and most refreshing. You can add it to green salads, to soft cheese along with other herbs, to soups and sauces, mushroom dishes and chutneys. It adds a special note to poultry and game, eel, lobster and herring. Or make a pesto for pasta by pounding lemon balm leaves with parmesan, olive oil, pine kernels and a little salt. The mild citrus flavour also combines well with sweet dishes – desserts, fruit salads, jams and jellies. And, don't forget lemon balm sorbet, syrup or tea (hot or iced. To make tea, pour a litre of boiling water over two handfuls of freshly picked, washed lemon balm leaves and let the tea draw for around 20 minutes. Use freshly picked lemon balm, chop it finely and add it after cooking because otherwise it will lose some aroma.

Appearance and origins

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) belongs to the Labiate family, it's a perennial and can grow to over a metre high. The oval leaves run to a slight point and have toothed edges. Lemon balm comes originally from the Near East; it was known to the Greeks and Romans who valued it as a medicinal plant as well as for flavouring food. In previous centuries households kept a bottle of Melissengeist (spirits of melissa) as a cure for digestive problems and as a natural sedative. Lemon balm tea also has this effect in a milder way; it is calming and relaxing but also very refreshing.

Growing, picking and buying lemon balm

Lemon balm will grow readily in your garden. It likes protected sites in dappled shade with free-draining sandy, loamy soil. Mulch with garden compost to act as a fertilizer. You can start picking lemon balm in late spring and continue through until autumn. If you have to buy lemon balm, because you don't have it in your garden, make sure the herbs look fresh, crisp and green.

 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de