Lemonbalm, Melissa officinalis
Let’s talk about lemonbalm! Lemonbalm is a very aromatic perennial herb that likes lots of room to grow. It grows well in full sun or part shade, and it gets a bit wider each year. It is easy to divide in the spring. Just dig up the whole plant and cut it into pieces to replant in other spots in your garden, or simply use your shovel to cut out and dig up the section that you would like to remove. They transplant well and you can easily get another clump going.
As someone who harvests a lot of lemonbalm, I try to get two harvests each year. I’ll do one in early summer and one in the fall. I cut back the whole stem, leaving one or two sets of leaves at the bottome of each stem. If you let it flower and go to seed, it will sprout up happily all over your garden, and you may get more lemonbalm than you bargained for! If harvesting only once, wait until it flowers and harevest flowers, stems, and leaves which can all be used both fresh and dried.
Lemonbalm is a lovely calming and soothing herb, especially when dried and used as a tea. If you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or overstimulated, brew a nice cup of lemonbalm tea, cover it and let it steep for at least 5 minutes. It is a gentle and effective fever reducer for children and babies (and adults). The hot tea opens pores and brings on sweat to help with colds, fevers, and flu.
If cooking is more your style, try using dried lemon balm in sauces, stews, rice, and soups, or use fresh leaves in salads or as a garnish with sweet or savory dishes.
Lemonbalm also makes a lovely essential oil, also known as Melissa. While lemonbalm grows quite prolifically, the essential oil usually comes with a big price tag because it takes so much material to produce a tiny bit of oil. It takes 7 tonnes of lemonbalm to produce 1 kg of Melissa essential oil!