Perennial – ‘Lemon’ Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Balm (Melissa officinalis), often called lemon balm, because of the fragrance of its light green leaves. Small white or pale yellow flowers, produced in spikes or clusters, at or near the top of the plant, appear in late summer and early fall and are highly attractive, Thus, the generic name Melissa, from the Greek for “honey- bees. The stalk is four-sided, branching, and from two to three feet high; leaves opposite, in pairs, ovate, toothed on the borders.

Origins

  • South of Europe.

 Uses

  • Leaves lend gentle flavor to puddings, soups, stuffing, punch, and other summer drinks. Pleasant garnish for fish and shellfish. Brew leaves to make excellent mild tea, which acts as a gentle sedative.
  • The plant has a pleasant, lemon-like odor; an agreeable, aromatic taste; and, in flavoring certain dishes, is used as a substitute for lemon-thyme.
  • It is beneficial in hemorrhage, and other diseases of the lungs; and, in the form of tea, constitutes a cooling and grateful diluent in fevers.
  • A mixture of balm and honey, or sugar, is sometimes applied to the interior of beehives, just previous to receiving the swarm, for the purpose of “attaching the colony to its new settlement.

Substitutions

  • Balm, like Angelica, can replace some of the sugar in fruit pies.
  • Balm used as a substitute for lemon-thyme

Hardiness

  • Hardy perennial

Height

  • 2-4 ft.

Spread

  • 12-18 in.

Requirements

  •  Any warm, mellow, garden soil is suited to its growth, having good drainage;  full sun or partial shade.

Planting

  •  It is generally propagated by dividing the roots, which may be done either in spring or in autumn. After thoroughly stirring the soil, set the roots in rows fifteen inches apart, and a foot apart in the rows. Under good management, the plants will soon completely cover the surface of the ground, and the bed will not need renewal for many years.
  • Sow tiny seeds in a pan in late spring. Thin established seedlings to 2 in. apart. When they are about 4 in. tall, plant in the garden, 1 ft. apart. Set out nursery-grown plants in mid-spring

Harvesting

  • Cut shoots individually as soon as flowers appear, continuing until mid-fall.
  • If cut for drying, the plants should be cut as they come into flower, separating the stems from the surface of the ground. They should not be exposed to the sun in drying, but placed in an airy, shady place, and allowed to dry gradually.
  • The leaves, in their green state, may be taken directly from the plants as they are required for use.

Preserving

  • Dry or freeze leaves

6 thoughts on “Perennial – ‘Lemon’ Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Comments are closed.