Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is a calming herb in the mint family with a delicate lemon flavor. It is both a culinary & medicinal herb. It is often used for sleeping problems, menstrual cramps, gastrointestinal problems such as gas & nausea, urinary spasms & nervous agitation. It can also be added to skin treatments for problems such as cold sores.
The chopped fresh leaves of lemon balm can be tossed into a salad or added to a dish to add a lemony zest to sweet dishes such as fruit salads, drinks, custards & sorbets. It also pairs well with tangy dishes adding a lemony zest. Like most herbs, it can be used to make herb butter & added to sauces & marinades. It makes for a great addition to poultry stuffing, lamb, pork & fish. It combines well with allspice, bay leaves, mint, pepper, rosemary, thyme, chervil, pepper & parsley. Be sure to add your lemon balm (or any other fresh herbs with essential oils) to the end of cooking. High heat can damaged the essential oils & reduce the flavor.
Lemon balm is a pick & come again herb which produces well when heavily picked. Harvest in mid to late afternoon when the oils are strongest & they are at their most aromatic. Leaves should be handled delicately as they tend to bruise & turn black. Lemon balm grows best in well drained rich soil & is sensitive to frost. If you let your lemon balm go to seed, it will easily self sow or you can save the seed to plant in a new location. It does not produce runners like mint, but will easily spread as seeds mature. Keeping the plant trimmed will reduce dropped seeds & keep the plant healthy & bushy.
To dry, cut at the base, lightly tie together & hang to dry in a cool dry location free from sun & bugs or put into your food dehydrator & follow the directions for your machine. Once dry store in glass jars. You can crush it by hand or add it a food processor (best to remove the stems first). Seeds should be harvested after they begin to turn brown. Cut stem & place in a paper bag to collect the seeds.
Temperature for Germination: 20°C (68°F).
Direct Sow: After all danger of frost, or start indoors 6 - 8 weeks before last frost.
Size: 24" - 36"
Hardiness: Hardy from zone 5 and above.
Sun: Full - Part Shade
Seed Spacing: 3 to 4 seeds per 12”
Seed Planting Depth: Lightly cover seed (Approx. 1/8").
Row Spacing: 12"
Days to Germination: 10 - 14
Thin: To one plant when plants have 4 leaves.
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