Lemon balm, Melissa officianalis, of the mint family, Lamiaceae, tends to be in the “love or loath” category for many gardeners. Around here we love our weedy plants if they are edible and utilitarian, making themselves worthwhile around the farm and kitchen. A few of the uses of lemon balm that we enjoy:
- Edible – sun tea, hot tea, fish seasoning, pesto, salad dressings, jam, a different twist on a mojito, or anything that you’d enjoy lemon flavor with.
- Medicinal – as an essential oil or tea to treat insomnia, anxiety, cold sores and indigestion
- Attracts pollinators – Melissa means honey bee in Greek
- Pest repellant – we use it dried for our chicken, duck and turkey bedding (it also makes them smell sweet)
Lemon balm is native to the Mediterranean as is apparent in its many flavorful uses. It grows to about 24 inches and enjoys sun to part shade as well as moist well drained soil. To keep it looking its best its best cut back mid-summer or when it begins to look drought and heat stressed. A vigilant plant, it will pop its head right back up to supply you with another bountiful autumn harvest and greenery late into the season. Lemon Balm spreads by seed, so if you’d like to maintain only the plant you have we recommend that you cut it back soon after flowering, otherwise, let it go and you’ll have plenty to share!
Lemon balm is an incredibly versatile herb, have fun and enjoy all that it has to offer!