Growing and Using Bee Balm

Growing and Using Bee Balm
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Bee Balm, both Monarda fistulosa and Monarda didyma, is an herb grown for it's scent, it's color and it's usefulness. M. fistulosa is the lavender colored wild bergamot which grows often in open airy fields, has flowers that attract bees and it's flavor is sharper and a little more minty than M. didyma. This is the variety known as bee balm and it's scarlet blooms are a little longer and do attract hummingbirds, but the bees have trouble getting nectar from the tubular blooms. Wild bergamot is also known as horse-mint and Oswego tea. It was used by the Native Americans as a tea, as a flavoring and also medicinally for stomach and bronchial ailments. You'll also find other varieties of Monarda available now, and all are edible.
Monarda needs good air circulation and doesn't generally do well when crowded. If it is allowed to dry out and is in a crowded bed it will most likely come down with mildew. When choosing a location make sure it has its own space that will be kept fairly moist. My first year planting it I grew it with Bachelor Buttons, which overcrowded it and the entire plant contracted mildew. I cut all the infected stems off and the next year it came back and doubled in size.

Deadhead the first blooms and you'll get another bloom out it towards autumn. This is easy to do since the blooms and leaves can be used for tea either fresh or dried. Tear apart the blooms, removing any green parts, and use these and the small leaves to salad. Save the older, larger leaves for tea. Hang in bunches to dry or place on screens out of the sun. Add a leaf to a cup of black tea when brewing for a nice flavor.

Bee Balm can be added to fruit salads, pork recipes, punches and other beverage recipes plus it can be substituted for mint.

Summer Punch


1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup Bee balm leaves

1/2 cup raspberries

2 cups cranberry juice

1/2 cup mint leaves (any variety)

1 47 ounce can chilled pineapple juice

3 liters of ginger ale

In a sauce pan dissolve the sugar in the lemon juice, over low heat. Add the bee balm and raspberries. Bring to a simmer, stir to break up the raspberries. When the sugar is dissolved, strain leaves and berries out of the liquid. Add cranberry juice and mint, stirring well. Chill up to 24 hours. When ready to serve, pour into a punch bowl and add pineapple juice, ice and ginger ale.

Bee Balm Iced Tea


1/2 cup Bee Balm flowers and leaves

8 cups boiling water

Pour the boiling water over the Bee Balm. Cover and steep until cool, about an hour. Strain and discard flowers. You can sweeten with sugar if desired. Chill until ready to use and serve over ice.

Bee Balm Tea: Pour one cup of boiling water over 1/4 cup fresh leaves and allow to brew for 5 minutes. Strain and sweeten if you wish before serving. To use dried bee balm pour one cup of boiling water over two teaspoons of the dried leaves. Brew the same and strain.

Summer Tea Blend


3 tbsp. dried chamomile flowers

1 tbsp. dried bee balm leaves

2 tsp. dried rosemary

1 tbsp. apple or pineapple mint leaves

Mix all the dried herbs together in a jar. Use 2 tsp. of the mix per cup of tea. Steep for 5 minutes and strain. Sweeten with honey or sugar if you wish.


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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