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Melissa Officinalis, Lemon Balm


Sharp lemon scent. Culinary herb, can be used in stuffings or sparingly in salads. A useful garden space filler, it can spread by rhizomes but responds well to regular trimming to maintain the bright golden leaf colour.

A good bee plant. A good companion plant, especially for brassicas.

A very easily grown plant, it succeeds in any well-drained soil in a sunny sheltered position. It prefers a light rich moist soil,a warm position and partial shade. Once established, this is a drought tolerant species, it is a useful plant to try in difficult dry places, usually succeeding in the dustiest of soils once it is established.

The growing plant is said to repel flies and ants. It is also rubbed on the skin as a repellent, though the essential oil would be more effective here. An essential oil is obtained from the plant (the exact part is not specified, it is probably the entire plant and especially the flowering stems). It is used medicinally. The whole plant is very pleasantly aromatic, the aroma lasting for a long time after the plant has been harvested. It is therefore a very useful ingredient in pot-pourri.

Lemon balm is a commonly grown household remedy with a long tradition as a tonic remedy that raises the spirits and lifts the heart.

Sow spring or autumn in a cold frame. Germination can be slow. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant out into their permanent positions when the plants are at least 15cm tall.

If there is plenty of seed it can be sown in an outdoor seed bed in April. Plant out into their permanent positions the following spring.

Edible uses

Leaves - raw or cooked. A pleasant lemon-like aroma and flavour, they are used mainly as a flavouring in salads and cooked foods. A lemon-flavoured tea can be made from the fresh or dried leaves. A bunch of the leaves can be added to china tea, much improving the flavour, the leaves are also added to fruit cups etc. They are used as a flavouring in various alcoholic beverages including Chartreuse and Benedictine.


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