LEMON BALM (Melissa officinalis) is an historic herb going back to at least 14th Century France, and a favorite for the gentle lemon scent of its light green serrated leaves. It was grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. Grows two feet high. Once your patch is established you will never be without this wonderful fragrant herb. Hardy Perennial in zones 4-9. 50 seeds.
MEDICINAL PROPERTIES: The most outstanding essential oil in Lemon Balm is Citronella, so it can be used crushed as a bug repellant. It is also widely used as a calming digestive aid by brewing its leaves. I love to combine this with my cold green iced tea and peppermint (brew it in the fridge.) It adds a truly refreshing and soothing component to the beverage. For those who suffer from cold sores, Lemon Balm oil has shown to not only soothe and shorten the time of such, but actually with regular use, prevent repeat sores from emerging.
GROWING TIPS: Start indoors 8-10 weeks before last frost. Sow seeds just beneath the surface of the soil. Germinates in 14-21 days. Plant outside after hardening off when all danger of frost has passed. Prefers full sun to partial shade and sandy dry soil.
DRYING FOR TEA AND OTHER USES: When we gather herbs for fresh use, we pick early in the morning, when still kissed by dew. But when we gather herbs for drying, we are going to wait until the sun has dried the dew, so that we do not get mildew forming when we dry. Gather small bunches of the healthiest plants and tie at the ends with string with a tail. Then hang in a protected environment. For me, it is from the shutters of my interior kitchen window over my sink. No sunlight at this window but plenty of fresh air as an overhead fan circulates during warmer months. This is ideal. Otherwise, special drying racks work well. The idea is to dry quickly, without sunlight, but plenty of air circulation to keep mildew from forming. Turn if necessary to make sure the bunch dries completely. When dry, crumple the leaves from the stems and store in airtight canisters.