Lemon Balm Starter - 1 small Pot - MELISSA OFFICINALIS
Nothing reminds me of summer quite like the fresh, citrusy scent of lemon balm.
One of my favorite ingredients in fresh herbal tea, this often overlooked herb is easy to grow, with a breadth of medicinal, culinary, and other uses. And it is certain to fill your garden and kitchen with the loveliest of lemony aromas. lemon balm is an herbaceous perennial member of the mint family.
HOW TO GROW
Melissa can be grown in full sun or partial shade. While adaptable to almost any soil and sun conditions, some people find that it can lose color if exposed to too much sun, and that some shade can actually improve the flavor.
An optimal growing environment for this herb includes moist soil, good drainage, and protection from hot weather. It is always a good idea to incorporate some compost into the soil prior to planting.
Additionally, because it has such a robust and sprawling root system, you can plant it on a hillside to prevent erosion! A vigorous grower, once established this herb rarely needs fertilizing or much in the way of special care.
Like other mints, it has a tendency to sprawl. But unlike its creeping relatives, lemon balm spreads by seed rather than via rhizomes. While it does self seed quite easily, it won’t take over the garden in quite the same way.
That said, it is a good idea to plant it somewhere that you are fine with it sticking around for a while with an expanded footprint! Or you can easily grow it in containers if you prefer. See more on this below.
If you want to prevent it from spreading, simply harvest the tops prior to flowering so it doesn’t have an opportunity to go to seed. Mulching will also help to prevent seed spread.
You can thin plants throughout the season, which will keep growth in check and help to improve air circulation, especially in hot and humid weather.
To prune, just snap off a stem from the base and use the fresh leaves immediately, or dry them for later use. You can thin out about a third of the plant at once, taking care to remove any leaves that are damaged or brown around the edges due to heat, cold, low humidity, or high wind.
This plant responds well to cutting. If a plant has become overgrown, looks stressed, or is showing signs of disease, you can just cut the whole thing down to the base and wait for it to re-grow.
It will likely grow back with thicker, more lush foliage the next time around.
Lemon balm is a great option for container gardening, and it pairs well with summer annuals such as dill or basil.
Lemon balm can be harvested regularly throughout the season, though the leaves are the most flavorful when they are young and fresh.
PRESERVING: FRESH IS BEST!
This herb is definitely at its prime when it’s fresh. It tends to lose some of its flavor over time, though I have found that with proper preservation techniques, it is possible to enjoy lemon balm throughout the year.
It can be dried on trays or by hanging it in bunches in a dark place with good air circulation. You can also put your harvest in a dehydrator for 12-18 hours on a low setting.
The key is to dry it quickly, otherwise excess moisture on the leaves will cause it to turn brown and lose flavor.
If you are planning to dry this herb, it is a good idea to harvest on a dry day so the leaves are less moist to begin with.
Once dried, strip the leaves from the stems and store in an airtight glass container with a lid in a dark, dry location such as a cupboard.
Lemon balm can also be frozen. Chop fresh leaves, mix them with cooking oil or water, and freeze in ice cube trays for later use.