Growing perennial medicinal herbs: Lovely lemon balm in the homemade greenhouse
Realization Of The Day:
This is the best looking lemon balm I've ever grown.
For the most part, my herbs never do nearly as well in pots as they do in the ground, which is where I've been planting (and replanting) my lemon balm for years. It often disappears over the winter.
Since lemon balm is easily started from seed, this was not such a big deal. But now that I've finally figured out the secrets (grow it in pots that are overwintered in the greenhouse and fertilize with plenty of sheep manure tea) I see a bit of extra time on my hands—and some newly available space in the garden.
I did spot one fairly good looking specimen coming to life in what I am now referring to as the echinacea bed today, so perhaps I'm wrong, and this is just a good year for lemon balm. No matter what, the stuff in the pot looks fantastic.
A little bit about lemon balm:
According to the wonderful book Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health: 175 Teas, Tonics, Oils, Salves, Tinctures, and Other Natural Remedies for the Entire Family (400 pages; paperback; just $11.53 at amazon.com), lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a beautiful and fragrant member of the mint family and one of nature's best nervine herbs. Lemon balm's leaves and flowers contain volatile oils, tannins, and bitters that have a definite relaxing, antispasmodic effoct on the stomach and nervous system. It is excellent for stomach distress and general exhaustion and can be used as a mild sedative and for insomnia.
Applied topically, lemon balm has been found to be helpful for herpes. It is often made into a cream for this purpose, though I find that the tincture works as well, and the essential oil is the treatment of choice in European countries.
Fresh lemon balm is most effective for medicinal preparations. It makes a delicious tea and can be served with lemon and honey throughout the day to alleviate stress and anxiety. For a delicious nervine tonic, blend equal amounts of lemon balm, oats, and chamomile.
Making a pot of lemon balm tea requires nothing more than picking a handful of fresh leaves and pouring boiling water over them; steep in a teapot or covered cup so the beneficial elements do not escape with the steam. I also like to toss a few leaves in with other types of tea, like the Celestial Seasoning's Tension Tamer I've been drinking for 25 years.
It's also easy to dry your own lemon balm. Since our high humidity most of the year often inhibits successfully drying herbs, I usually wait until the colder months to preserve my harvest. I simply put the lemon balm in a brown paper bag, seal it with a clothespin, and place it on a high shelf near the woodstove in the living room.
The best time to harvest most herbs, including lemon balm, is early in the morning when the oil levels in the leaves are highest.
You can even add lemon balm to baked goods, though I have yet to try this. My favorite thing to do with it? Pinch off a few leaves, rub them between my fingers, and inhale deeply. So lemony, so calming, so lovely.
Miscellaneous Goings On In The Garden:
--Potatoes survived that last frost and are re-sprouting through the thick layer of sheep manure/shredded hay mulch I gave them.
--No sign of mache seeds sprouting in raised bed with kohlrabi. Need to clear out healthy weed crop and replant something else there.
--No sign either of Lutz Winter Keeper beets and Amish Deer Tongue lettuce companion planted in the onion plot. (Not surprising about the lettuce, as I recently realized these were the same 2004 seeds that didn't come up when I started them indoors. Despite what many authorities say, I find that lettuce seeds rarely last more than one year.) Weeds are coming up well instead. Need to decide if I want to sow other seeds or just mulch between the onion rows with grass clippings like I usually do.
--Raspberries canes are leafing out nicely. Seem to get greener by the hour.
--Did a brief dig into the thick grassy weeds looking for boysenberry life. Didn't find any yet. Think raspberries are my best bet for berries here. Well, them and. . .
--Strawberry blossoms popping up all over!
--10 San Marzano tomato plants seem happy in their new bed (that 11th one is definitely dead).
--Big pot of sage in greenhouse is about to flower (know I should pinch off blooms, but they're so pretty, and I hardly use sage anyway)
--Chive blossoms are already poking out.
Need To (A partial, ongoing, never ever going to be completed list):
—Start some basil seeds! (click here for all my basil growing posts, and click here for my Homemade Italian Sausage Recipe with fresh basil, oregano, garlic, and fennel seeds, plus links to all of my basil growing posts at the bottom of the page)
—Get to that neglected asparagus bed—and fast.
—Lettuce and Arugula in the Garden: Salads For Those Who Are Short on Time, Space, & Sunshine
—Spring Green Garlic: Growing It, Cooking with It, Loving It, plus a Recipe for Easy Green Garlic Fettuccine
—Growing Dragon Langerie (Dragon Tongue) Bush Beans: of my favorite heirloom bush beans. I'll be planting my first crop of beans on the fertile days in the next first quarter (April 28th, 29th, May 2nd, 3rd, & 4th). Will you?