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Lemon Balm

Melissa officinalis

Garden Care

Native to the Mediterranean, Russia, Syria and Turkestan, Lemon Balm is a fragrant low growing, 2 foot, herbaceous perennial that prefers shade to part sun; normal garden soil; 12-24" spacing, will spread and become a problem if not kept in check.  As she matures her center will die back.  She will appreciate being dug up and her roots divided and transplanted to give her a fresh start. 

Harvest & Parts Used

When the leaves and stems are robust and deep green, trim the plant leaving about 6".  The Summer Solstice is usually a good time.  In the heat of the summer the leaves will burn and dry so do not harvest this crop for consumption, trim it leaving 6" around August 1st.  Feed this harvest to your chickens or the compost pile.  Again, around the Fall Equinox harvest another healthy batch as described above.

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Drying & Storage

Lemon Balm needs to be removed from direct sunlight immediately and not layered thick or it will decay quickly.  Cooler her down quickly is important.  I spread it in a thin layer allowing for ample airflow to encourage a quick drying processes to maintain the best quality dried herb.  Dry it low and slow at 95-100 F, which will take about 48-72 hours.  I seal my dry herb in a plastic bag and box it up in a dark, cool dry location to maintain the concentration of volatile oil for up to two years. 

Medicine Making

Lemon Balm smells and tastes exquisite in an infusion for tea.  To relieve stress and anxiety, my daughters like to blend her with lavender or chamomile, or all three.  I like to make a fresh herb after dinner tea combined with fennel leaves to help with digestion.  Lemon Balm is very versatile as a culinary edible, infused honey, oil or vinegar, in salves and herbal tea, in a tincture or mead, you can use it in just about anything to give it a lemon flavor.  It is also a main ingredient in my Chillax Tea Blend.

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