Lemon balm is an herb that can boost your spirit on even the bluest Monday of the year. Whenever I feel exhausted, I search for a plant in my kitchen garden that will help me – and my beloved lemon balm has the fix. Just one cup of lemon balm tea restores me and brightens up my day.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinsalis) is a perennial plant that belongs to the mint family. This aromatic plant is closely related to Peppermint and Spearmint, so it does not come as a surprise that it is also called balm mint. This herb is easily recognized by its wrinkled leaves with prominent veins, toothed margins and a characteristic lemon-like scent. If you rub your fingers on the leaves, you will smell lemon. How is that possible? The reason is very simple. The lemon-like aroma and flavor of lemon balm is due to the presence of essential oils, which contain citronellal and citral, the same ingredients that are found in the essential oils of lemons.
Melissa and Her Honey Bees
Throughout history, lemon balm has been closely associated with honey bees. Honey from bees that live near this aromatic plant has an exceptionally pleasant taste and aroma. Bearing the genus name "Melissa", meaning "bee" in Greek, the plant was likely named for its reported ability to attract bees. In Greek mythology, a Cretan King’s daughter named Melissa discovered and taught the use of honey to the ancient Greeks, and from whom bees were believed to have received the name “Melissa”.
Lemon balm recently became a very popular culinary herb. The aromatic leaves of lemon balm with distinctive lemon aroma are very popular in chefs’ kitchens. When making pesto, I recommend switching out Basil for lemon balm. I find that it’s a really interesting tastes experience – and my guests are always pleasantly surprised. I like to use this aromatic herb as an additive in different desserts. You just have to try ice cream with lemon balm sauce.
Just as it adds a unique flavor to classic food, this plant is also used effectively to cure many different ailments. Ancient Greek scholars knew the value of lemon balm, calling it the elixir of life. They believed that this plant rejuvenates memory and dispels fatigue. Modern research published in scientific journals prove the ancient scholars’ opinion. This plant has a sedative, or calming effect that reduces stress and improves mood, sleep, and mental performance.
At NATUFIA, I’ve been experimenting with lemon balm seedlings, and I am pleasantly surprised how quickly they germinate. It took just three days for the seedlings to germinate in the NATUFIA machine. I highly recommend that this plant is part of your kitchen garden. If you are currently growing lemon balm, let me know how you use it in a comment below. Though, if you aren’t growing lemon balm, but want to know more about this herb — I’ll gladly answer your questions below.
KRISTA KAUR, MSc
Krista holds a Master of Science and is an author of seven books on topics like biodiversity, ethnobotany and the environmental impact of agriculture. With over 20 years of experience as a botanist, she thrives off of making others feel empowered, connected, and inspired by nature. At Natufia Labs, Krista is busy testing new and exotic seeds—experimenting with LED lights and their effect on garden growth, taste, and aroma. If you have questions regarding anything to do with plants—Krista is the one with answers. She is thrilled to share her knowledge with the rest of the world.
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