Every Tuesday we cover the uses and qualities of our edible Click & Grow plants. This week we’ll look at Lemon Balm.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) originates from Europe and it has been cultivated in the Mediterranean region for around 2000 years. The plant is widely known for its health benefits. For example, it’s known that Charles V, the King of France in the 14th century, drank Lemon Balm tea every day to stay in good health.
Paracelsus, the famous Swiss-German physician, botanist, alchemist and astrologer called Lemon Balm the elixir of life. Now, there has to be some truth in that because we know that although alchemists didn’t have much success, they really were a persistent bunch. I wonder, whether some of that sturdiness came from Lemon Balm? :)
Overall, Lemon Balm is a member of the mint family and it may grow up to 2 feet (60cm) in height. Its leaves are very deeply wrinkled and range from dark green to yellowish green in color. Hint: rub your fingers on these leaves and your fingers will smell like lemons - tart and sweet!
Fresh Lemon Balm imparts a subtle lemon flavor and fresh lemon fragrance, making it especially nice for fruit dishes, custards, and tea. Lemon Balm can be used both in hot and iced teas and in combination with other herbs such as spearmint. The plant is also often used as a flavoring in ice cream and its also suitable for spicing up chicken and fish dishes.
Early fresh leaves can be chopped and added to salads. As cooking destroys the fragrance, Lemon Balm should be added to already cooked recipes.
Lemon Balm has several health benefits which make it an ideal plant to bolster you immune system. The plant has anti-viral qualities and therefore tea made of it is a great drink when you’re feeling under the weather. The hot tea brings on a sweat that’s good for relieving colds, flus and fevers.
Second, Lemon Balm also works as a tranquilizer. It calms a nervous stomach, colic, or heart spasms and as the plant is very gentle, it’s often suggested as treatment for children and babies.
Various studies have also shown that Lemon Balm is effective in reducing stress and there have been studies where the use Lemon of Balm has shown to improve mood and mental performance. I guess Lemon Balm truly is the source of the alchemists persistence!
Next week we’ll look at Chilli pepper!