The early rains of morning turned into a sunny and blustery day. The days are cooler and the garden plants are starting to look like they are heading to bed for a cold. I took a walk through my flower beds today and decided that I needed to pick the lemon balm before first frost. With leaves still fresh and fragrant, I harvested several handfuls of this herb and washed the leaves in a sink filled with cold water. After shaking off the clinging water droplets, I set the leaves on a towel-lined tray to dry.
Lemon balm is a member of the mint family and has a lovely lemon scent. The heart-shaped leaves of this plant are shiny and wrinkled with scalloped edges. It's easy to grow, preferring a shady spot, although it will grow in full sun. This herb has tiny flowers of light blue or white during the late spring through midsummer. These blossoms are well loved by bees who seem to send out the word that this fragrant herb is in full bloom and there's enough fragrant nectar for all!
I'll be laying the leaves of this herb on a tray that's placed in a room with our wood stove to dry slowly, yet completely. Once dried, the leaves will crumble easily and will be useful for tea or potpourris. If drying a quantity of this herb, bundling and hanging is another useful method of dehydration.
According to herbalists, lemon balm is a medicinal herb that has a variety of properties. It has mild sedative properties and is known to relieve gas, reduce fever, ad increase perspiration. Extracts of the lemon balm leaves have also been shown to have strong antibacterial and antiviral qualities.