Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Urban Herbs #3 - Lemon Balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is all over the place here in Seattle and we can always find a few of these shrubs growing around our yard. My kids like to nibble the leaves. I'll sometimes nibble them too, but more often I'll just pick a few, rub them between my fingers and smell their nice lemony aroma. Until today I've never tried drinking a plain infusion of lemon balm (though I'm sure I have had them before in blended herbal beverages).

Lemon balm tea is considered a healthy infusion for colds and flu as well as a calming and soothing beverage. It makes a nice addition to aromatic and medicinal herb gardens and has the added benefit of attracting beneficial bees who help to pollinate nearby plants.

I picked ~10 fresh tender leaves and minced them up with a knife. I steeped them for 5 minutes using 5 ounces of boiling hot water. The resulting infusion had a pleasant grass and citrus aroma and a pale watery yellow-green color.

In my opinion it tastes great. Like most herbal infusions, lemon balm is probably hard to over steep. Next time I going to use more leaf and a longer steep time. The flavor was not at all bitter and was too weak to be perceived as tart. I was reminded of lemon juice, lemon peel, rose hips and meadow flowers. It left with a nice aftertaste and feeling in my throat. I can easily see myself drinking this infusion often throughout the winter and sharing it with my two young children.

1 comment:

Alex Zorach said...

This is one of my favorite herbs, and I use it almost exclusively to make infusions out of, both hot and iced. It is also very common (growing wild) in Philadelphia, Delaware, and Lancaster, PA where I grew up.

I actually just harvested a tremendous amount of it, combining wild populations I found on unmaintained properties with some from a church flower bed that I got permission to harvest, and it is currently drying in my living room.