Notes from Herb Heaven

Lemon Balm

The lovely lemon balm originates from North Africa and southern Europe, although it now grows all over the world.

Sensitive to frost, it grows well in hot areas, and will even grow in some cool areas. Perennial but deciduous. Grows to 80 cm high. Lemon balm grows like mint and prefers full sun or a little shade and lots of water. Likes rich soils and a good mulch.

Bees love melissa, so grow some near trees and plants that need cross-pollinating.

Grow from seed in autumn, root division in spring and cuttings in midsummer. Keep cuttings in moist sand for about two weeks. Plant out about 30 cm apart. Keep them damp for a couple of weeks, after which you can water them about twice a week.

You can grow lemon balm in containers indoors as long as they get a little light and some sun.
Grow it in a few places in the garden to find the best spot. Water well in dry weather. Powdery mildew and rust are the most common diseases. Try a mixture of skim milk and water 1:9 for powdery mildew. Spray once every three days ~ three times. This helps to build the immune system of the plant. Feed with a good organic food once in spring.

Tea is helpful in insomnia – acts as a mild sedative. When uptight and strung out, this is the tea to drink. It has a calming effect. Add a few fresh, torn leaves to ordinary black Ceylon tea for a refreshing cuppa, or make a cup of melissa on its own by steeping a sprig or two in a cup of boiling water for five minutes, strain and sweeten with a little honey if desired. It will also help in cases of indigestion as well as for coughs and colds. Dried lemon balm is great in potpourris as the lemon scent lingers for about a year. Hang a bunch of melissa in the wardrobe to keep fish moths at bay. Add a tablespoon of chopped melissa to a white sauce just before serving. This goes well with fish. Finely chop a few leaves to add to vegetables just before serving. Particularly good with root vegetables. The lemon flavour of the fresh leaves and flowers is very versatile and goes well with fish, poultry, stuffings, as well as with sweet things such as fruit punches and cool drinks, custards and fruit dishes.


Balm Stuffed Apples

4 medium-sized cooking apples
2 Tbs ground almonds
1 Tbs chopped balm leaves
1 Tbs soft brown sugar 
50g softened butter

 Wash the apples, remove the cores 
and put into an ovenproof dish. 

Put the almonds into a basin 
with the chopped balm, sugar 
and softened butter and beat 
until the mixture is well blended.

Divide the mixture between 
the centres of the 4 apples.

Cook in a moderate oven, 
180°C for 30-40 minutes or 
until the apples are tender. 

Serve with cream or ice-cream.

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