Notes from Herb Heaven

Lemon Verbena

Indigenous to South America, it was introduced to Europe in the mid 1700s. Aloysia refers to the Spanish queen, Marie Louisa.

Use the leaves fresh in a teapot of boiling water, steeped for five minutes. Light and delicate, it is a most refreshing tea after exercise and is soothing in cases of bronchial and nasal congestion. It is also useful in calming stomach problems. Drink after meals if you've been out to a rich dinner.

Mix lemon verbena tea with fruit juice and sparkling mineral water for a refreshing summer drink. Add a few fresh leaves as garnish.

Lemon Verbena can grow to 2m in height, but can be contained in a large pot as well.

It grows well in warm climates although it does not like high humidity.

Does not do well in frosty conditions. If in the cold, mulch it well and protect with sacking. Better still, grow it in a container in a warm spot on the patio/stoop or indoors.

Give lemon verbena a light, well-drained soil. Do not over-water.

Feed once every 6 weeks with a slow release fertiliser, organic where possible.

Hose leaves regularly with water to diminish the incidence of spider mite and whitefly.

If powdery mildew is present, try spraying every three days with a mixture of 100ml milk to 900ml water, or remove and destroy diseased plants.

Propagate with softwood cuttings in summer and hardwood in autumn. Plant in a mixture of two parts coarse river sand and one part good potting soil. Keep moist and shaded and put in plant bags once rooted. When strong, plant out in the garden, a metre apart.

If you prune it regularly, using the leaves fresh or drying them, you will contain its straggly growth. This is a good one to clip into shapes (the art of topiary).

Butterflies love lemon verbena. It has delicate white sprays of white to mauve flowers in summer that look beautiful in a flower arrangement.

Dry by hanging up the branches in a cool, airy place. Put the dried leaves in airtight containers. Lemon verbena is a popular herb in potpourris as its scent lingers for a long time.

A few sprigs placed in the linen cupboard will impart a lovely lemony fragrance to the sheets and towels.

Put a tea bag or sachet of lemon verbena in the bath for fragrant relaxation.

Cotton wool soaked in cooled tea can relieve puffy eyes.

Can be frozen for 6 months. Wrap in cling wrap or zip it in a ziploc.

Finely chopped leaves can be used in desserts and drinks.

Infuse milk with a couple of lemon verbena leaves and use for a white sauce for fish.


Lemon Verbena Eggplant Slices

Serves 4

8 Tbs butter/olive oil 
4 Tbs finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 Tsp finely chopped lemon verbena
450 g eggplants (about 2 medium)
1 cup cherry tomatoes 
(or ½ cup diced tinned) 

Slice eggplant thickly and place 
in a colander over a dish. Salt the 
eggplant and leave for at least half 
an hour to extract the bitter juices. 

Rinse under a cold tap and pat the slices
dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. 
Fry the first batch of slices in half of 
the butter or olive oil (try a mixture of both) 
for about 5 minutes a side and drain on paper towels. 
Repeat with remaining slices. 

Add tomatoes and cook gently for 
three minutes until tender. Set aside. 
Fry parsley, garlic, salt, pepper and 
lemon verbena for about 3 minutes. 
Add eggplant slices and tomatoes and heat gently for 3 minutes. 

(Variation: if you don’t like tomatoes,
try adding a little coconut milk after frying 
the slices and the seasonings. Very yummy!)

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