Melissa officinalis (Labiatae)
Appearance: Grows into a dense round bush around 60-90 Cm’s (2-3 ft) tall and broad. Temperate regions increase growth sizes by about 20 percent. Leaves may be variegated with distinct yellow patterns. There are several types of these herb garden plants.
Usage: Lemon balm dries well and all types are used in potpourri recipes. Use lemon balm as a substitute for lemon juice in jam-making. Dried and crushed, leaves may be added into stuffing for meat and poultry. Flower tips and fresh leaves are floated on punches, wine and fruity cups.
History: Lemon balm as herb garden plants were primarily grown for their aromatic lemon-scented leaves. The clean pervasive fragrance led to cultivation for use a popular strewing herb. Balm was a principal ingredient of eau descarmes – a distillation invented by Carmelite monks as the forerunner of eau de cologne – in seventeenth—century Paris.
Cultivation: Seed is slow to germinate but quite easy to grow. The very fine seeds barely require covering. Impatient growers can take cuttings from established home herb garden plants in late spring; plant these when established in warm areas or wait until the following spring.
Moist soil and good sun promotes lemon balm’s essential oil eradicating the slightly musty nuances that dry seasons or light, dry soils produce. It is particularly healthy, both in appearance and aromatic qualities, in well set up containers. Always remember to cut back close to the soil level in the autumn (fall) to ensure fresh growth and good fragrance later.
Lemon balm herb garden plants like temperate regions without excessive humidity and thrive after a cold winter.
Pete Steel has grown herbs for 25 years in several different climates and soils. He gives out herb garden information and writes about herb garden plants and herb usage.
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