Using and Growing Lemon Verbena
Using and Growing Lemon Verbena
Designed by Brenda Hyde
All Rights Reserved
If you've never rubbed a leaf of lemon verbena it's impossible to explain its lovely scent. Yes, it's lemon, but yet it's also a captivating fragrance that almost instantly relaxes you.
To me, it's the ultimate in aromatherapy. If you grow just one lemon scented herb it should be lemon verbena. Although to grow just one lemon herb would be a shame, since they are all so wonderful.
Lemon verbena, aloysia triphylla (formally Lippia citriodora), is a native of Chile and Peru, where it grows ten to fifteen foot tall. I've read it can grow 5 foot or more in one season, but mine is only about a foot and a half tall at this point. We have had some cool nights this summer, plus I can't resist harvesting it often, which I'm sure keeps it from growing to it's full potential.
Lemon verbena needs at least 6 hours of sun, and I found it did better in a traditional herb soil that was on the dry side as well. Mine started out in a bed of good soil with compost and organic fertilizer, but did not branch out or start growing until I moved it to my kitchen herb bed where it was slightly drier and had no added compost.
Lemon Verbena will not survive frost, but in cold climates it may be brought inside. Be prepared, because it will lose it's leaves, but keep it in a sunny window and water once a week to keep it from drying out. By spring it will have leaves again, and after the danger of frost has passed you can place the pot outside, burying it to the rim in your garden. It's only hardy in Zones 9 and 10, and won't withstand temperatures below 40 degrees.
Unlike some herbs, lemon verbena will retain its scent for years when dried, which is why it's not only a popular culinary herb, but also a potpourri ingredient. I dried mine in the oven on the lowest setting by placing it on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. I was very pleased with the results and it only took 2-3 hours to dry. I combined it with pineapple and apple mint, which made a nice tea.
I have also used it in herb vinegars this year combined with other lemon herbs as well as in mixtures with rosemary and thyme.
You can use lemon verbena in place of lemon zest in recipes. Virtually any fruit salad can be enhanced with its finely chopped leaves. Bury 6 lemon verbena leaves in a cup of sugar that has been placed in a covered jar or container. Use this sugar to top muffins, fruit, or sprinkle on the top of muffin batter before baking. Because the leaf is rather tough you'll need to mince it very fine if you plan on leaving it in a dish, or add it whole and remove before serving. Dried, it should be crumbed before adding to recipes.
Process 10-15 lemon verbena leaves in a food processor with the sugar from your favorite sugar cookie recipe. Continue with the recipe as directed after processing the two together. The following recipes can also be used with fresh and dried lemon verbena or if it's not available try substituting lemon grass or lemon balm.
Lemon Verbena Potpourri
You will need:
dried peel of one lemon
2 cups dried lemon verbena leaves
1 cup dried chamomile flowers
6 inch cinnamon stick, crushed
1 cup dried calendula petals
1 tsp. orris root powder
2-3 drops lemon verbena essential oil (optional)
Dry the lemon peel by scraping it off the lemon with a vegetable peeler, spread on paper and dry in a warm place for about 2 weeks, until crisp. Mix all the ingredients together. Seal in a tin and put in a warm place for about 2-3 weeks, shaking occasionally. Use to scent a room, or for sachets. Add more essential oil as the smell fades. Adapted from Kitchen and Herb Gardener by Richard Bird and Jessica Houdret
Lemon Verbena Syrup
1 cup lemon verbena leaves
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Blanch the lemon verbena leaves in boiling water briefly to brighten the color, then immediately plunge into ice water to stop cooking. Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat and cool. Place the lemon verbena and cooled syrup in a blender and purÃ©e on high for 2 minutes. Chill overnight, then strain through a fine mesh strainer. Keep leftovers refrigerated. Use with ice cream, pound cake or other light desserts, as well as fruit.
Lemon Rose Tea
1/2 cup torn lemon verbena leaves
1/4 cup rose hips
Place 4 cups of water in a teakettle or medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the lemon verbena and rose hips. Remove from the heat and steep for about 15 minutes. Return to the heat and simmer for 1 minute. Pour into individual tea cups or mugs, sweeten with honey and serve.
Lemon Verbena Cake
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup butter flavored shortening
2 drops lemon extract
2 cups cake flour or regular flour sifted several times
1/4 cup fresh chopped Lemon Verbena leaves
Cream together the sugar and shortening until well mixed. Add the eggs 1 at a time, mixing for one minute after each addition. Add dry ingredients gradually, scraping down the sides. Add the extract and the verbena leaves. Pour into a Bundt or tube pan, which is well coated with the shortening and floured. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until golden brown (testing with a toothpick). Remove to a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan onto a serving plate. Drizzle with glaze or dust with confectioners' sugar.
Lemon Verbena Scones
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cold butter
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh lemon verbena leaves
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup milk
Preheat oven to 425Âº F. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar. Cut in the butter with your fingers or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the lemon verbena leaves; mix until combined just combined. Make a well in the center of flour mixture. Add the egg, yogurt, and milk, stirring well. Mix in with the flour mixture to form a soft dough. Coat a12-inch cast iron skillet with a non-stick cooking spray. With floured hands, pat the dough into skillet. Cut with a sharp, serrated knife into eight wedges. (You can also pat the dough into a circle this same size on a baking sheet, and then cut into wedges.) Bake at 425Âº F for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm. Makes 8 servings.
Raspberry-Lemon Verbena Butter
From The Herb Companion
1/2 pound unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
4 ounces fresh or frozen raspberries (not in syrup)
1 small handful young, tender lemon verbena leaves
Thaw the raspberries if frozen, and pour off any excess liquid. With all ingredients at room temperature, blend butter, sugar, and raspberries until smooth (about 3 minutes). Strip out any large veins in the lemon verbena leaves, then add the leaves (chopped if you're mixing by hand) and blend until the texture is pleasing.
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Grated peel of 1 lemon
4 to 6 fresh very finely minced lemon verbena leaves
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and purÃ©e until smooth. Refrigerate covered about 2 hours until firm.
Lemon Verbena Hair Rinse
3 tablespoons lemon verbena leaves
1 cup boiling water
Pour the boiling water over the lemon verbena leaves. Steep for about an hour. Strain the mixture, discarding herb. Use as a rinse after shampoo and conditioning your hair.
Salt-Free Herb Seasoning
1/2 cup dried dill weed
1 tbsp. dried lemon verbena
1/2 cup dried minced onion
1 tbsp. dried lovage, or celery seeds
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tbsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. paprika
1 tbsp. dried marjoram
In batches, grind all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container out of the sunlight and away from heat.