My Top 3 Lemon Scented And Lemon Flavored Herbs

My container herb garden

My container herb garden

Anyone that knows me knows that I’m passionate about herbs, especially lemon scented ones. I try every spring to stay on a “plant budget” at the nursery. That means I am careful what plants I buy, know where I’m going to put them, and try to not make impulse buys. Part of my money goes for flowers, then shrubs I have studied about, then herbs that I can’t live without. Three of my favorite herbs are lemon scented and lemon flavored. They make the most wonderful tea and also flavor everything from chicken to cookies.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balmLemon balm has medium green heart-shaped leaves. The leaves are slightly serrated and a little wrinkly. It is a hardy perennial growing anywhere from 1 to 3 feet tall. It grows in partial shade, but it will also grow in full sun if it has enough water. Like all herbs, it prefers soil with good drainage. The small, white flowers it has later in the year are insignificant but because of these it can reseed itself abundantly. I would try to contain it in a bed of its own or maybe a very large decorative pot. This herb needs some restraint or it might try to take over your garden when your back is turned. As a medicinal herb, lemon balm is excellent for soothing the nerves and helping with stress-related digestive disorders. In cooking, it has a wonderful lemon scent and subtle lemon flavor. Many people like lemon balm tea made with dried or fresh leaves. Its subtle flavor is great in cakes and cookies, too. Below I have included a few recipes with lemon balm.

Lemon balm

Lemon Thyme

Thyme is a twiggy little plant with tiny oval-shaped leaves. Lemon thyme is a little lighter shade of green than the normal, regular thyme plant. Small flower spikes appear later in the year and encourage every bee in your neighborhood to it. Thyme is a perennial that grows from 6 inches to 1 foot in height. It loves to grow in full sun and dry, sandy soil. I Pot of lemon thymehave cooked chicken with lemon thyme, but surprisingly the tiny leaves taste great in salads, too. I’m contemplating covering a dry, sunny hill with this plant. In the least, I would love laying on it and rolling down it. It is a problem area for me and maybe this would be the solution. I certainly wouldn’t mind it if the plant were to spread around. As a medicinal herb, thyme has a soothing affect on nerves and removes mucus from head, lungs, and the respiratory system. I love to add fresh thyme leaves to green tea. It is lemony, soothing, and wonderful. Below are recipes with this lemon wonder.

Lemon thyme

Lemon Grass

This heavenly scented plant has long, strappy leaves like the ornamental grasses. As you can see in the picture, I just bought my lemon grass. I put a pencil next to the pot to show it is about 8 inches high but will reach 3 to 6 feet in heighth if I plant it in the garden. The nursery worker reminded me that even though it is small it will end up the Lemon grasssize of a compact car. I will plant mine in a large pot to keep it confined. It loves to grow in full sun and it originates from tropical climates. Unless you garden in zone 9 in the US it will not act as a periennial for you. As a medicinal herb, lemon grass helps with insominia, stress and sore throats. Lemon grass is used in a lot of Asian cooking and due to its stringy and tough tecture should be removed before eating any dish. It is wonderful dried in teas.

Lemon grass

Recipe Ideas

Lemon balm makes a great tea all by itself. I have a teapot that makes tea for about 3 people. I add 2-3 tablespoons of dried or fresh lemon balm leaves and let it steep for about 15 minutes. Strain through a tea strainer and serve with a few drops of stevia or your favorite sweetener.

Lemon thyme makes a super tea also. I love to steep 1-2 tablespoons of fresh leaves in my 3 person pot for about 10 minutes then add green tea for the last 3-5 minutes of steeping. It makes a wonderful lemony, green tea that I love so much.

Lemon grass, lemon thyme, and lemon balm mixed together make a wonderful tea especially soothing for bedtime. All three herbs dried and then mixed together in the tea pot give a very different taste than any one of these herbs alone. (around 3 tablespoons of dried material all together – steep for 10-15 minutes).

Lemon grass and chicken make a super combo. A friend of mine told me he takes long straps of lemon grass and wraps them around the chicken pieces. He then puts the chicken in a bag with Italian salad dressing and lets it marinade in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. He and his wife tell me it gives the chicken a yummy flavor. I look forward to trying it.

I have also found a super recipe for lemon balm butter cookies over at A Busy Nest. Take a look at it here. They have a lot of incredible recipes and are an invaluable resource. I would encourage you to give them a look.

Advertisements

Spring Is Finally Here!

A Dogwood blossomThere is nothing better than spring! I love the look, the feel, and the smell of spring. It brings a renewed energy to my body and my demeanor. My six year old once asked me what blue smelled like. I don’t know. But I do believe green has a smell and it is the smell of spring.

I love walking through my garden every day and just noticing what is blooming or in bud or just beginning to have a few leaves. It seems everything wakes up from winter at different times. I am always mesmerized by it all.

Every year in spring, I am so thankful that I have herbs growing in my garden. One of the first plants to awaken in spring is my lemon balm. I step into the flower border, and into the lemon balm to baste myself with it. It’s aroma attaches itself to my pant’s legs and stays with me most of the day. Lemon balm tea is used by many people for its relaxing benefits. It is reported to help with insomnia. The native Americans rubbed it on their bodies to repel insects. I have harvested a huge batch of it to dry for tea. I took a huge mixing bowl outside and filled it to overflowing. Then brought it inside, washed it and dried it with paper towel. I made little bundles – four or five stems each and attached the stems together with rubber bands. I hung them all up to dry for a week. I am excited to taste the tea.

Mint drying on my spice rack

Another herb I really like is called pineapple sage. I thought I had lost all of it but suddenly I see it popping up in the border. It seems to be telling me, “You shouldn’t have worried. I’m still here.” There are so many wonderful things about it. First, it smells like pineapple when you crush its leaves. Second, it blooms in the fall the most wonderful shade of scarlet. I know many people have trouble integrating red flowers in a flower border. I suggest we stop worrying about it and enjoy the electrifiying color of red. When pineapple sage is in bloom and the maple trees are wearing their red leaves the combination is breathtaking. I wonder if it could make a pineapple flavored tea?

Every year I fall in love with herbs all over again. Yesterday, I looked over an old herb book while eating my bagel for breakfast. It was so wonderful viewing the pictures of beautiful herbs growing in overflowing gardens. How lucky we gardeners are to have such riches. When you fall in love with gardening it never leaves you!

My Top 6 Favorite Lemon Scented or Flavored Plants

Lemon BalmLemon Balm – can be used in cakes and cookies

Lemon Grass – use to flavor chicken or fish

Lemon Thyme – can be planted in rock gardens

Lemon Basil – great for Italian cooking and pesto

Lemon Verbena – use to make lemon tea, desserts

Lemon Mint – a great garnish, or to flavor iced tea

All of these are super easy to grow and readily available. Have fun gardening!