Thursday, May 15, 2014

Lemon-y Herbs

Here is the April 2014 Newsletter from The Herb Cottage

Lemon-y Herbs for Summer

Last month I wrote about Lemongrass, so this month I thought I'd continue with the lemon theme and discuss a few other lemony herbs. Lemon flavored herbs are great for summer: they make light and refreshing iced tea, add bright notes to grilled fish and seafood and combine well with salads.

Here are my favorites!

Lemon Verbena, Aloysia citrodora

Lemon Verbena Flowers

A perennial shrub from 3 to 6 feet tall, Lemon Verbena is also known as Lemon Beebrush due to its attraction to bees when in flower.

The leaves will freeze and fall off the plant at 32 deg. F, but the wood is said to be hardy to -10 deg. F. Since I don't live where it gets that cold, I have no experience with such low temperatures. I do know, my Lemon Verbena comes back every Spring on the old wood. So, if yours freezes, do not prune the woody stems all the way down. Prune for shape, if you like, but know new leaves will soon populate the old, woody stems.
In containers, I've found the smaller woody stems to also freeze, but new growth reliably comes from the root system.

Lemon Verbena can be a bit of a lanky, leggy grower and a bit of Spring pruning can help shape the plant. Left on its own, it's not the most attractive plant in the herb garden. The flavor of Lemon Verbena, however, easily makes up for any lack of physical beauty.

In the garden in the Southern US, give Lemon Verbena some afternoon shade and it'll be very happy, providing you with lots of leaves for tea and cooking. If you have a bee garden, Lemon Verbena is a good addition. The flowers are very attractive to our little pollinating friends. It makes sprays of white to pinkish flowers. Very attractive in arrangements, too.

I like to refer to Lemon Verbena as The Queen of Lemon Herbs! It's flavor and scent is most like a real lemon, giving it the ability to make terrific tea, hot or iced. Used in cakes and cookies, it adds a distinct lemon flavor.

Here's a recipe I found using Lemon Verbena in a muffin recipe with another summer favorite, zucchini:

Lemon Verbena and Nut Muffins

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
1 cup packed shredded zucchini - do not drain
12 lemon verbena leaves, sliced finely

Into a large bowl, put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon peel, cinnamon and nuts.
In another bowl, beat the eggs with a fork, beating in the milk and the oil.
Add to the flour mix and stir well.
Then add the zucchini and lemon verbena and stir all together.
Grease mini-muffin tins and then fill 3/4 full.
Bake at 400 deg. F for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the tins.
Test with toothpick.

Glaze: juice the 2 lemons from above and add enough confectioners sugar to make a thin glaze. While the muffins are still hot, dip the tops in the glaze and set on wire rack to drain.

Recipe from In the Kitchen at Shale Hill Farm

Lemon Basil, Ocimum x citriodorum

Lemon Basil

Many people don't realize there is more to basil than simply the Italian or Sweet variety that is so popular for Pesto and other cooking applications. There is Lemon, Lime, various red and purple leaved varieties, African of several types, holy basil or Tulsi from India, Cinnamon, Licorice, Thai and more. Lemon and Lime are similar in that they have a soft and fruity aroma and flavor. Lemon Basil is said to be a cross between standard Basil and African Basil.

Lemon Basil is grown in Northeastern Africa and Southern Asia for culinary purposes. In Laos, it is used in a popular stew called a 'lam' and in Indonesia it is called 'kemangi' and is said to be the only basil used.

It grows like the other basil types, likes warm weather, lots of sun and is not particularly drought tolerant. The leaves are narrower than the Italian types. It's flowers are white and attractive to bees. As with the other basils, it makes a nice container plant or addition to the herb or flower bed.

Use Lemon Basil instead of your traditional basil for pesto, either alone or mixed half and half with parsely or even standard basil. Then try it on pasta, to top steamed, roasted or grilled vegetables or in iced tea for a different flavor. Here's an easy Basil Pesto Recipe. which can be adapted by using varied combinations of leafy green herbs such as Lemon Basil, Parsely or even Lime Basil.

If using chopped Lemon Basil in a dish, add it to the food at the very end of cooking as the flavor cooks out rapidly. Or, simply sprinkle the chopped herb over your dish for a burst of lemony basil flavor. Sauteed Spring or Summer vegetables tossed with Lemon Basil is easy and flavorful to mix with pasta, quinoa or couscous.

Lemon Thyme, Thymus citriodora

Variegated Lemon Thyme

Ah, Lemon Thyme! If you like lemon and savory flavors, then Lemon Thyme is the herb for you. It is so delicious with grilled or steamed vegetables, chicken- stuff it under the skin of a breast portion- and in dips and spreads. Try in with salmon, trout and shrimp.

Lemon Thyme, a variety of the common thyme, Thymus vulgaris, is a perennial herb in most areas. It comes in a couple of types. There is a green variety then there is the Variegated Lemon Thyme with bright green leaves edged in gold. Both have a bright lemony scent and flavor. Lemon Thyme, like the other thymes, grows low to the ground, needs really good drainage and, in the Southern US, grows best with afternoon shade in the summer. The variegated variety is not as winter hardy as the green-leaf type, but I have no trouble with it in my Zone 8b garden.

It puts on tiny pink to lavender flowers during the summer that are visited by bees and other pollinators. Thyme is a great container plant because you can give it perfect drainage there and it looks cute cascading over the edge of a pot.

Lemon Savory, Satureja biflora

Lemon Savory

I wrote a rather long newsletter last year on the Satureja, or Savory, family of herbs. Included was this lemony flavored herb known as Lemon Savory. It looks a little like a cross between thyme and an oregano with small rounded leaves. It's very tender- winter hardy only to Zone 11, but is well worth growing in the summer months. It dried well and keeps its flavor, so if you should grow a lot of it, you can preserve it for winter use. I've never seen it sold commercially as a dried herb.

Like many herbs, it likes lots of sun and like other savories, it's fairly drought tolerant. I grow it easily from seed found at The Thyme Garden, a wonderful nursery located in Oregon. If you have an established plant you can ground layer it to propagate it. That is nothing more than letting a branch or two or three... tound the soil nearby, keeping the soil moist until new roots form where the little branch meets the soil. You can bury a part of the stem and put a rock on it to keep it in the ground or use a bent piece of wire to keep the stem in contact with the soil so the roots can form. Once roots have formed, simply clip the stem the new plant off the mother plant, gently dig it up and replant it where you want it.

I use Lemon Savory much the same way I use Lemon Thyme, on fish, especially salmon, with shrimp and other seafood. It is a nice addition to a vinaigrette either as a tossed green salad dressing or a marinade. It also pairs well with grilled, sauteed or roasted vegetables and is delicious added to chicken soup or stock. You can add it early in the time, as, unlike Lemon Basil, for instance, it does keep its flavor during cooking.

Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm is one of those herbs that is found in lots of old herb gardens. It has quite a history of medicinal use and is also used for flavoring food. It is in the mint family and can be a bit of a garden thug if it's happy where it's growing. It grows in a mounded form, but sends out runners like other mints and can end up taking over quite a bit of garden real estate. I would not be without it, however.

I use it for tea, distill it into a hydrosol that is used to soothe irritated skin, add it to baked goods and let it flower to attract bees.

The plant is named 'Melissa', which is Greek for honey, due to its sweet aroma. 'Officinalis' is the medicinal designation for a plant, meaning it is the one traditionally used in herbal healing. It makes a soothing tea which will settle an upset stomach. It blends well with other tea herbs such as peppermint, hibiscus and green tea.

Here is more information on Lemon Balm

Here in the Southern US and especially in South Texas, Lemon Balm likes more shade than sun. In more temperate areas, it can be grown in a sunny spot. It's not particular about soil conditions and can take heavier, less porous soil than some of the other herbs. It flowers in late summer here. After the flowers fade, I trim the plant down quite a bit... at least by half. By then, the leaves are looking sort of ratty due to the high heat of summer and the plant looks better after a pruning. As the summer wanes, new growth is put on and by fall there is lots of fresh, new growth ready for harvest.

Lemon Balm Quick Bread

3/4 cup sugar
8 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup lemon balm leaves, finely chopped
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
grated rind of one lemon

Grate the lemon peel and remove the juice from the lemon. Reserve the juice for the glaze.
Cream butter, sugar, and finely chopped leaves.
Add eggs and beat well to get a smooth consistency.
Add remaining ingredients (flour through lemon rind).
Pour into one large or four miniature greased loaf pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes if using a large pan or 25-30 minutes if using miniature pans.
Before removing from the pans, use a toothpick to prick holes in the crust.
Pour Lemon Balm Glaze over the top while the loaves are still warm.
Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan. Loaves can be frozen for later use.


1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped lemon balm leaves
juice from one fresh lemon (about 4 tablespoons)

~~TIP: To avoid having bits of chopped herbs in the bread, steep the chopped leaves in the liquid for a half an hour or so. If you heat the liquid first, then add the herbs, the flavor develops more fully. This liquid can then be stored in the refrigerator for later use, or used right away in the recipe

Here is a PDF of the recipe you can print out.

Lemon Balm Beginning to Flower

I hope this Newsletter has given you some inspiration to grow and try some of the fresh, flavorful, refreshing Lemon-y Herbs that are out there for you. A cold glass of iced tea on a hot afternoon is a great way to start using these lemon-y herbs.


Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
-- Nathaniel Hawthorne, American author

Until Next Time,
Good Growing to You,
Cindy Meredith, proprietor
The Herb Cottage
442 CR 233
Hallettsville, TX 77964
phone & fax: 979-562-2153, cell: 361-258-1192
Visit Cindy's Blog at

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