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Monday, April 13, 2009

Cooking With Lemon Balm 4-13-2009 Show

Lemon Balm: Herb of the Year 2007

Light and fresh, lemon balm adds a splash of citrus and mint undertones to both savory and sweet dishes. Use the young tops of the plant for cooking and teas because the large, older leaves tend to have a soapy, musty flavor. It is best used fresh but can be dried quickly and stored carefully for use in teas and herb blends; on drying it will lose some of the nuance of its flavor.
Gather and use generous amounts of fresh lemon balm leaves and add after cooking whenever possible to maintain the delicate aroma. Cooking lemon balm too long will dissipate its flavor.

Herb BlendUses
3 parts lemon balm, 1 part borage flowers, 1 part spearmintFruit beverages; steeping in wines; simple syrup for drinks and fruit salads; a stimulating tea
3 parts sorrel, 1 part lemon balmFresh salads; add to other greens or raw ve getables; salad dressings
Equal parts lemon balm, sweet cicely, lemon-scented geranium leavesNON DAIRY puddings, custards, ice cream, fruit cocktails
2 parts sorrel, 1 part lemon balm, ½ part thymeTEMPEH and Tofu: use as a rub before grilling, frying or baking
Equal parts lemon balm, sweet cicely, lemon verbenaGreat for pasta; flavor rice and grains such as couscous; a light lemon tea
2 parts lemon balm, 1 part orange peel, ½ part rosemary Flavor wines; with Agave a throat-soothing tea
2 parts lemon balm, 1 part each marjoram and thymeTomato sauces; add to poaching liquid for to create a Nice flavor* lemony sauce
Equal parts lemon balm, chervil and sweet cicelyFruit pies, Non Dairy puddings, custards, fruit salads
2 parts sage, 1 part lemon balm, ½ part each thymeGr eat seasoning and marjoram or oregano
2 parts lemon balm, 1part each hyssop and mintStimulating tea; herbed simple syrup
2 parts lemon balm, 1 part catnip, ½ part German chamomileSleep-inducing tea
1 part lemon balm, ½ part sweet cicely, ¼ part lavender flowers Rel axing, soothing tea; flavor desserts, baked goods; herbed simple syrup

Lemon balm may not be much to look at but the delightful fragrance is irresistible to children, bees , Chefs and gardeners. Don't be confused by its many names. Try it in your tea or sniff it to lift your spirits, you can call it whatever you like.

Some herbs are more straightforward than others. Basil is basil, every herb lover knows it. Rosemary is rosemary, there is

no other name for it. Lemon balm is another matter.

Lemon balm is also known as sweet melissa or sweet balm or just plain balm. But it is not to be confused with bee balm, even though bees love it. Lemon balm is often mistaken for lemon verbena although they look nothing alike. It does look like mint because it is in that family.

Sweet melissa is easy to explain as a natural extension of the Latin name Melissa officinalis although bee balm would make e sense, too, since the Greek translation of melissa is bees. The variations on balm may point to the herb's calming applications. Sweet balm has been used throughout the ages as a salve for burns and bites as well as for lifting spirits or as a sedative.
The lemon part of the moniker is obvious with the first sniff of the leaves. A strong lemon scent wafts from the plant with a mere brush against it. The lemon taste is as strong as the aroma.

Lemon balm is a modest herb in appearance
. With smallish oval leaves and discreet white flowers, it will grow two or three feet high. As a member of the Lamiaceae (formerly Labiatae), or mint, family, this perennial will self-seed into rambunctious growth and may offer three harvests per season if it is cut back after each blooming.


Lemon-Berry Chardonnay Cordial

Makes 3 cups

Lemon balm was traditionally consumed in wine cups and cordials for its medicinal benefits. Vegan Chablis or any other white wine may be substituted for the Vegan Chardonnay, or use this sweet, thick syrup as a sauce for puddings, custards and other desserts.

¾ cup Raw sugar
¼ cup chopped fresh lemon balm
3 cups Organic fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries, strawberries or blackberries
3 cups Vegan Chardonnay

In a blender or food processor, process sugar and lemon balm until leaves are finely chopped and mixed with the sugar. Wash and drain berries and place in a quart jar.Sprinkle herbed sugar over berries. Add wine to jar and cover. Refrigerate for at least 1 month, or until mixture is slightly thick and sweet.

For an aperitif: Strain and pour into glasses. Garnish with lemon balm sprigs.

For a cool summer beverage: Strain and pour ¼ cup into a tall, ice-filled glass. Fill the glass with soda water or sparkling water. Garnish with lemon balm sprigs.

For a dessert sauce: Spoon over fresh fruit or Coconut or Soy ice cream.

Peach, Avocado and Arugula Salad with Lemon Dressing

Serves 4

Peppery arugula leaves are softened by the bright, slightly sweet and aromatic combination of lemon balm and basil.

4 slices Wheat French bread, cut on the diagonal
2 tablespoons Organic olive oil
1 clove Organic garlic cut in half

Organic Salad:
2 cups fresh arugula leaves
½ cup fresh lemon balm leaves
¼ cup red onion slices
Fresh basil leaves, finely shredded
1 ripe avocado, sliced
2 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
4 whole fresh lemon balm sprigs, optional

Organic Dressing:
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoon chopped fresh lemon balm
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat broiler. Arrange bread on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes, turn and broil for another 2 minutes, or until bread is golden brown. Remove from oven and rub both sides with garlic; set aside.

To make salad, toss arugula, lemon balm, onion and basil in a bowl; set aside.

To make dressing, combine oil, vinegar, lemon juice and lemon balm in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and shake well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add half the dressing to arugula and herbs; toss lightly.

To serve, place one bread slice on a plate. Spoon ¼ of the salad over bread. Arrange avocado and peach slices over salad. Drizzle remaining dressing over fruit. Garnish each with a sprig of lemon balm, if desired, and serve immediately.

Corn Fritters with Lemon Pesto

Serves 4

Serve these lightly fried fritters as a vegetable accompaniment or main dish.

Use regular or sweet potatoes.

Buy Organic

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup shredded carrot or parsnip
1 cup shredded potato
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh lemon balm
3 tablespoons shredded VEGAN mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
Equivalent to 1 egg replacement ( use also ready Made tempura batter)
SEA Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil or Any pressed Oil such as; Apricot Kernel, Grape Seed or Coconut Oil.

In a large bowl, combine corn, carrot, potato, onions, lemon balm and Vegan mozzarella cheese. Stir to mix well. Add flour and egg replacement ( fallow the package instructions) and mix to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mixture should be just moist enough to hold together. If not, add more flour until mixture is the desired consistency for forming into patties.

Lemon Lovers Tea

Ingredients: 1/4 cup dried lemon balm leaves 2 tablespoons dried lemon thyme leaves 1/4 cup dried lemon verbena leaves 1/4 cup dried lemon geranium leaves 2 tablespoons dried lemon grass leaves 1 tablespoon dried lavender blossoms

Mix all together and use a tsp. or so per cup of boiling water. If you are missing any of the lemon herbs, just use more of the ones you do have.

Lemon Mint Sun Tea

Ingredients: 1/2 cup mint 1/2 cup lemon balm 1/2 cup chamomile flowers 3 black tea bags

Place in a gallon container and add cold water to fill the jar. Set in the sun for several hours. Strain our tea and herbs. Pour over ice and refrigerate the leftovers. Sweeten with honey or sugar if desired.

Rose and Herb Tea

Ingredients: 1/2 cup dried red rose petals (make sure no sprays were used) 2 tablespoons dried lemon balm 1 tablespoon dried rosemary

Mix well. Use 1 teaspoon for each cup and pour boiling water over the herbs, then strain after 5 minutes or so. Sweeten as desired.

Lemon Balm Vinaigrette

Ingredients: 3 tablespoons light olive oil 1/8 teaspoon salt 6-8 leaves lemon balm Fresh black pepper to taste 2 tablespoons wine vinegar

Stack the lemon balm leaves together and roll, then with a very sharp knife cut thin strips, and then chop finely. Combine with the other ingredients and serve with steamed vegetables or mixed salad greens.

Lemon Orange Vegan Cheese Spread

Ingredients: 2 ounces Vegan butter, softened 8 ounces Toffuti ( Non Dairy) cream cheese, softened 2 Tbsp. Organic orange marmalade 1 tsp. orange zest 1 Tbsp. fresh fresh orange juice 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh lemon balm

Blend the Vegan butter and Non Dairy cream cheese until smooth. Mix in the other ingredients. Chill overnight and serve at room temperature.

Lemon Astringent

Ingredients: 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon balm 1 cup witch hazel

Combine the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Allow to steep for 1 week. Strain. Use 1 teaspoon per application with a cotton ball. Refrigerate if you wish.

Lemon Herb Vegan Butter


2 tablespoons lemon balm, chopped fine

2 tablespoons thyme, chopped fine

1 cup Vegan butter, softened

Cream butter and stir in herbs. Chill for at least 3 hours to allow flavors to blend. Use with baked potatoes or vegetables.

( Or anything else you can think of )

Snow Peas with Almonds and Lemon Balm

Makes 2 side dish servings.

2 Tablespoons sliced almonds

4 ounces fresh snow peas

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh lemon balm leaves

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/8 teaspoon Kosher or Sea salt

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Toast the almonds by placing them in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat. Shake or stir, watching carefully, until they are golden brown. Remove from heat; transfer to a small bowl.

String the snow peas, if desired, and slice crosswise into 1/2-inch lengths. After the almonds have cooled, mix in the lemon balm, black pepper and salt, crushing the nuts slightly as you mix.

Heat the olive oil in the same small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the snow pea pieces; stir fry for 4-5 minutes. Reserve 1 Tablespoon of the almond-balm mixture and stir the rest of it into the snow peas. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the reserved mixture.


Lemon balm is an easy to care for herb that grows similar to mint. It likes some shade during the hot part of the day or it will wilt slightly. I find it very drought tolerant and rarely give it extra water unless we go quite awhile without rain. In fact, it doesn't like wet feet, and prefers a loose, fairly fertile soil. It will tolerate dry soil as well. I harvest my plant at least 3 times each summer and still have more than I can use with just one plant. It can be harvested within 2-3 inches from the base of the plant each time and it comes back with vigor! I've read that in some parts of the United States it's becoming known as a pest, but I've found that if you keep it harvested and don't allow it to go to seed it stays under control.

You can divide lemon balm in the spring or fall. You can also take cuttings in midsummer to bring in for the winter. It can be grown from seed in the spring, or started indoors in late winter and transplanted.

Lemon balm is not considered an ornamental herb, but I think the leaves are pretty, and I can't resist grabbing one each time I pass it to smell the lovely lemon scent. I have mine located next to my sage plant, which is great for snipping both herbs quickly before cooking.

To harvest, cut the whole stems within a few inches of the base of the plant, gather into groups of 5-6 stems, tie and hang in a warm, airy location. When dry, strip off the leaves, store in a covered container and use as needed.

A handful of fresh lemon balm and mint make an excellent hot or iced tea when agave is added. It can be used in place of lemon peel in recipes. Add it to your favorite vegan sugar cookie dough for a pretty vegan tea cookie.

I think of it as much more than a tea herb! I add it to herbal vinegars along with dill and nasturtiums for a pleasant variety of vinegar that can be used in marinades or salad dressings.

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