Herbs are one of my passions in life. This is why I have over three dozen different herbs growing in my herb gardens. Most of my favorites are perennials that require almost no care other than harvesting and being "put to bed" in the autumn.
Lemon balm is called a balm for a reason. It has amazing healing properties, beginning with its intoxicating fragrance. If you rub it between your fingers, it spreads an aroma exactly like freshly sliced lemons.
Lemon balm is not one of those herbs that you have to be careful with or avoid eating too much. You can use as much as you want as often as you please.
The old-timers used to call Lemon Balm the "child tamer" because a little lemon balm tea before bedtime tends to knock kids out. It's also a great tea for folks who are suffering from sleeping disorders. To make lemon balm tea, simply let it steep in boiling water. If you cut it up and put it in a tea strainer, it will be ten times more intense and flavorful. To make ice tea, simply put it in the fridge.
Some of the other many uses of Lemon Balm include:
Stuff chicken breasts with it and top with parmesan, italian bread crumbs, and fresh lemon balm sprigs. When cooked, lemon balm has the consistency of spinach and is full of fiber and vitamins.
Chop and sprinkle over fruit salads to add a unique bouquet of fragrance and flavor.
Use as a garnish in summer drinks or put a sprig in ice water to dress it up when company comes over.
Add lemon balm to floral bouquets for a brighter fragrance and fuller presentation.
Use as a garnish or added greens in cold summer salads.
Lemon balm loses its flavor when you dry it, so you can not preserve it this way. However, it is easy to freeze. Simply pack your cuttings in tupperware or ziplock bags so you'll have fresh lemon balm tea all winter!
Unless you live on the North Pole, lemon balm will thrive and spread in your USDA zone. It's usually the first herb to greet me in the Spring time and the last to check out in Autumn.
Start lemon balm from a cutting, not seeds. Ask a friend for a cutting (make sure it has some good roots on it) or buy a plant from a nursery.
Lemon balm is a perennial and it spreads quickly. Its roots can quickly take over a small garden, so give it room to spread or keep it in a large pot.
Lemon balm is in the mint family, so always cut from the top, not the sides. The last two leaves below where you cut will start to produce two new shoots in about a week. This means that every time you harvest it, it will literally double its efforts. By the second or third year, it will be so bushy you won't know what to do with it, as in the top picture of this post.
In the late Autumn, cut your lemon balm down to the ground after the frost. If you live in a colder climate, throw a few leaves on top to insulate it.
Lemon balm may be grown in pots. However, you may want to plant a whole bed of it once you discover how useful it is. I used large rocks as a border to keep it out of my garden path.
Lemon balm makes a therapeutic tea for folks who suffer from sleeping disorders. It's also an amazing addition to many different summer dishes.
Provide ample space between perennial herbs when you design your herb garden. This will give them room to spread and make it easier to keep them where they belong.