Lemon balm smells like sweet lemon and is used in herbal teas, wines and liqueurs. Lemon balm is a hardy perennial that bears some resemblance to its close relations, the mints. It is multi-stemmed growing to about 80cm, with ovate, regularly toothed green leaves. The insignificant lipped flowers are lemon-yellow, and borne in clusters on the upper parts of the stems.
Lemon balm is an unfussy plant, but prefers full sun to partial shade and a well drained but moist soil. It also grows well in pots. It is usually grown from seed although it is easy to raise from cuttings taken in spring and autumn, or from rooted divisions. If you do not want seedlings, or you desire a new flush of foliage, cut back the whole plant, including the flowering heads.
Harvest the fresh foliage as required. To dry, cut the plant down to about 7.5cm in mid to late afternoon, secure the stems in small bunches with rubber bands, and hang upside down in a well ventilated area out of direct sunlight. Strip off the dried leaves and store them in airtight containers in a cool place.
Lemon balm’s lemon scent and lemon and mint flavour go well with most foods complemented by either of those flavours. Use the leaves in tea, salads, cordials, fruit dishes, wine cups and chilled summer drinks, or stuffing for poultry or fish.