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Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is in the mint family. It is a hardy, perennial herb. It's easy to grow and quite prolific, ensuring that you'll get leaves from it during spring through till fall (autumn).
Lemon balm has bright foliage with slight indentation around the edges. It has small white flowers when flowering. There are also golden-leaved and variegated varieties available.
Lemon balm has a lemon-scented fragrance. The odor has also been described as "soapy".
It grows to a height of around 2 feet or 60cm.
Growing lemon balm
Choose from seed, cuttings, seedlings or division. It grows well from any of these choices.
It is recommended that you grow it in containers unless you have ample garden space for it to spread across. A container will stop it from spreading and makes it easy for you to move around.
Use standard potting mix. Lemon balm thrives on animal manure, so add some well rotted manure or sheep manure pellets.
Caring for lemon balm
Cut back woody areas of the plant. This will encourage new leaves to grow. A light trimming is required regularly, to help keep the plant compact.
Harvest the leaves from spring to fall.
Lemon balm is a vigorous grower, which is to say, some of your neighbors might not be too happy with you for planting it as it can be invasive. But if you have good tilth, it is not that hard to get it out, and you will at least feel rather clean after wrestling with it.
Uses for lemon balm
Lemon balm leaves are mainly used a culinary herb. It can be made into a herbal tea, which is pleasant tasting.
However, larger, bulk quantities can be chopped and used in salads giving a mild lemon flavour and aroma. In this respect, some consider lemon balm a perennial vegetable. Lemon balm leaves (young ones) can also be added to fish dishes. It can also give a lemon flavor to meat stuffing. Much of the flavour is lost if the leaves are cooked or dried.
|The following is not health advice. Consult with a medical professional before making any change to your health care or nutrition regimen. |
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There is some research[verification needed] showing it to be a calming aromatic for some people; in particular, it has been shown to calm agitated Alzheimer's patients.[verification needed] It does not work for everyone, but it works for some.
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