Lemon Verbena is a fairly insignificant looking plant but it is most definitely my favourite lemony herb. It is not as obvious as Lemon Balm, with its more delicate pure flavour and it finds a place in many a sweet and savoury dish I create.
But it doesn’t stop there, it provides a long lasting delicate natural fresh aroma when used in my homemade Pot Pouriis making synthetic lemony products seem so undesirable! Add to that the fact that it is a great insect repellent and it begins to show itself as an indispensible herb.
This herb was my best ever discovery. I found it tucked away in a corner of a plant nursery, looking pretty sad for itself! I bought it for 50p as an avid herb collector, some 6 years ago. I had always depended on Lemon Balm (Melissa) for fresh lemony flavours, especially while making a reviving tea. Then up popped Lemon Verbena.
Lemon verbena loves bathing in sunlight. It likes to be kept moist but needs a rich, free-draining loamy soil which retains some moisture but doesn’t become waterlogged. It is a tender deciduous shrub, dying back to ground level at the first frosts. My plants have survived the recent harsh winters with minimum protection – from a natural mulch of fallen leaves.
I do however hedge my bets and take a couple of plants into my greenhouse for extra some winter tlc, Its light green leaves are lancet shaped, and its tiny lavender or white flowers appear in late summer. Then it’s not the flowers you grow it for – its the clear and crisp flavor of lemon in the leaves is a reason you will want this in the garden.
Pinch out the tips of the stems to keep the plant bushy or else it will end up leggy and produce fewer leaves.
Lemon verbena is best propagated by cuttings taken in summer. Place the cuttings in the shade and keep them well watered or they will wilt and die.
You can harvest sprigs all summer, but leave your main harvest until midsummer when you can also prune and shape the plant and take it indoors or into a greenhouse before the frosts kill the plant off.
Here is a page from my free downloadable Book of Herbs :
Lemon verbena actually produces the most intense, lemon-like scent of all the lemon scented herbs. Lemony flavoured herbal vinegars are so easy to make and so useful for adding to dressings. Infusions of its leaves produce surprisingly energising – but calming – teas.
Simply combining lemon Thyme and lemon verbena leaves, finely chopped and mixed with butter is wonderful drizzled over fish, meats and even bbq’d corn on the cobs. I have found an endless use for this herb in my kitchen. Many of those ideas are explored elsewhere on the website www.loveofherbs.co.uk .