Friday, August 26, 2011

Lemon Balm

*Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

*unfussy, hardy perennial
*best in zones 4-9
*a spreading type of plant, so you might want to grow in pots to prevent invasion
*delicious lemon scented and flavored plant that makes an excellent tea

Parts Used:
*Aerial parts, either fresh or dried (but dried plants lose some of its potency after 6 months)

*full sun to partial shade
*moist, well drained soil

*it is easiest to grow from seed that has had cold stratification done for at least 1 week. Start indoors and transplant outside in late spring
*you can also propagate from tip cuttings, just make sure you use a liquid or powder rooting hormone
*this plant reseeds ambitiously, so you can also just let it go crazy

*if you don't want seedlings, cut back the whole plant soon after it flowers
*cutting back the plant helps it maintain its color
*control its' ambitious reseeding and invasive spreading, or it will control your garden

*harvest fresh as required
*to dry, cut the plant down to about 3 inches in late afternoon, secure the stems in small bunches with rubber bands and hang upside down in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight. Strip off the leaves and store in airtight containers in a cool place
*the flavor of the leaves is best when the flowers are just beginning to open

*useful for the whole body: it is great for the digestive tract, children's health, winter illnesses, and to strengthen the immune system
*it is good for pain relief and nervous system health and a great stress reliever
*it is calming for stomach problems
*it is a good remedy for insomnia

*it can be added to fruit salads for a fruity lemon flavor
*you can make a delicious lemon balm vinegar, or add tarragon to the lemon balm vinegar as well

For more information, see: references and warnings

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