It is seriously spring here in Northern Virginia and I joyfully spent the entire weekend in the gardens. Digging plants in (and out), filling seed and suet feeders, and watching where the birds are nesting.
Did you know? Spring is an essential time to keep the feeders filled. The birds are actively nesting and need extra energy. Their natural Winter food supply has dwindled and the Summer supply hasn't yet arrived.
The gardens have reached the point where even some of my herbal allies have become bed bullies and need to be kicked out. Sorry, Feverfew. Out you go, Chamomile. And let's not even talk about the Mugwort. SHE is absolutely ridiculous and it's only mid-April.
There is one more herb that is taking over the beds and paths, but I haven't had the heart (yet...), to give her the boot. I'm talking about Lemon Balm.
Did you know? Lemon Balm has antiviral and anti-anxiety properties, and is being studied for her ability to improve memory and decrease agitation in Alzheimer's patients.
This photo of Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is unedited -- isn't she GORGEOUS?! Can you blame me for not yanking her rowdy self out? She literally is partying ALL OVER three herbs beds AND the paths between. Lemon Balm obviously didn't get the 2020 quarantine memo!
But in all seriousness, I DO love her. Right next to Rose, Lemon Balm is my favorite herb (shhhhh....). And here's my plan for how to use her:
I'm going to start harvesting her this week by cutting her nearly back to the ground. This will keep her producing those beautiful, citrusy, glossy leaves throughout the summer.
And then I'll dry the leaves on some super awesome, multi-level, POP-UP drying racks that my son and daughter-in-love gave me for Christmas.
And THEN I'll zip the leaves off the stems (the herby term for this is "garbling") and store them away until they make their way into my candles and incense and other blends.
One of my favorite ways to use Lemon Balm is to make a "tisane." What's a tisane? It's actually a "tea" made with herbs and/or flowers instead of the traditional tea leaves. Don't you just love that word? Tisane. Just saying it makes me think of faeries and medieval princesses and unicorns....sigh. Anywho. Making a Lemon Balm tisane is easy. Here's how:
Snip a handful of Lemon Balm (about 6-8 sprigs is perfect).
Place the sprigs into a heat-proof container and cover with about 4 cups of boiling water.
Let it rest (steep) for about 15 minutes, and then strain.
You can sip your tisane hot OR as the weather warms up, keep it in the fridge for a refreshing alternative to iced tea. Feel free to get creative, too. Add Lavender, Rose, Basil, Thyme... whatever you like. And always top your cup or glass with a fresh sprig for good luck!
Want to learn more about my love affair with Lemon Balm? I wrote all about her in my book, Notes from an Enchanted Garden. Please use discount code LEMONBALM at checkout to save 10% on your purchase. And let me know if I can personalize a copy for you.