7 Ways to Use Lovely Lemony Lemon Balm

The epic rains that soaked SoCal this year gave birth to a springtime of lush floral beauty and emerald lawns, something I don’t think I’ve experienced in the thirty-two years I’ve lived at Casa de Enchanted Seashells.

Before that, I lived in the area and there were definitely some heavy rains, but I didn’t notice nor did I appreciate the luxuriant plant life like I do now.

Flowers that previously lay dormant for seasons now burst forth in riotous color and perfume, like the lovely freesias, stock, Jupiter’s Beard, and borage.

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Most exciting for me is the herb garden.

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Just look at the abundance of this patch of lemon balm. Planted directly under a bedroom window, the lemony fragrance wafts up and in with even the slightest breeze.

Ahhhh.

Heavenly!

Lemon balm was traditionally used to uplift the spirits and to enhance memory. Some of its healing properties were spiritual in nature. This herb was used in spells to heal broken hearts and also to attract romantic love. It was believed that a lemon balm bag put under the pillow could help promote sleep and put in the bath would promote relaxation. (https://www.mountainroseherbs.com)

Easy to grow Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), a member of the mint family, is considered a calming herb. It was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion (including gas and bloating, as well as colic).  help heal wounds, and treat venomous insect bites and stings. Today, lemon balm is often combined with other calming, soothing herbs, such as valerian, chamomile, and hops, to promote relaxation. It is also used in creams to treat cold sores.
http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/lemon-balm

Lemon Balm is useful for nursing mothers that want to reduce overproduction of breast milk or when in the process of weaning and drying up milk supply. DIL added it to her sage tea when she weaned Angel Boy 2.0 and it worked!

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Add it to any dish that might benefit from a little lemony flavor, including cookies. I’m going to experiment on a vegan Lemon Balm & Lavender cookie, and will let you know how it turns out.

Seven Ways to Use Lemon Balm

1. Chop a couple tablespoons of lemon balm and add to your favorite salsa.
2. Chop together with cilantro in guacamole.
3. Lemon balm salad dressing is yummy and so easy! Combine your favorite oil with white balsamic or champagne vinegar, 2 TBS chopped lemon balm, pepper, Pink Himalayan sea salt, and whisk!
4. Pour hot water over lemon balm leaves. Let steep and enjoy!
5. I add a few sprigs to a pitcher of water with ice cubes and sliced lemon.
6. Lemon Balm Pesto:
2  cloves garlic
1/4 cup almonds or pine nuts (or both)
2  cups fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh lemon balm
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (don’t add if vegan)
2  TBS fresh lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
In food processor, add all ingredients except oil and pulse. Pour oil in steady but thin stream while pulsing until very smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, along with dried red peppers if you like it spicy.

If you Google it, there are loads of DIY recipes on the internet and Pinterest using lemon balm, but I chose this one to share with you ‘cos it’s cool and seems fairly easy:

7. Lemon Balm Extract
Combine your favorite carrier oil (sweet almond oil or sunflower or grapeseed with chopped lemon balm leaves in a small jar. Make sure the leaves are submerged in the oil.Cover and place in a sunny spot for two weeks, turning/shaking every so often while still making sure the leaves are submerged. Strain out the leaves and the oil is now ready to use.

**While it’s generally considered safe for most people, lemon balm might inhibit thyroid function. If you’re on thyroid medication, check with your doctor or pharmacist before using internally. As always, if you’re pregnant, nursing, or have any other questions, talk with your doctor.“Melissa Officinalis produced a significant inhibition of TSH binding to its receptor and of antibody binding to TSH”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14759065

 

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Strawberries, Sage, and Stevia

Sorry to most of the rest of the country but here in SoCal, our growing season is pretty much never over.

Here’s the raised bed tugboat man built for me the day before he left. I planted tomatoes, kale, red leaf lettuce, beets, beans, and broccoli — I packed a LOT in a 4×8 space. He was supposed to build a second bed, but this is another one of those “such is the life of a tugboat wife” moments where I need to wait until he’s home again.raisedbed

There wasn’t any room for the eggplants or these spicy jlapenos.

jalapenospotI dug a fresh, new herb garden directly under our bedroom window. I’m hoping the lovely aromas will waft up and in.Herb garden

There’s a couple different kinds of sage; basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, lemon verbena, cilantro, and STEVIA.

SteviaDid you know you could grow stevia?

Neither did I, but when I saw a pot of organic stevia at Armstrong’s Nursery, I had to try it. The leaves are super sweet. I’ve seen stevia extract on the grocery shelf as a sugar substitute but I’ve never tried it.

From Mother Earth News, a few facts about stevia:

If growing your own calorie-free, natural sweetener sounds too good to be true, it’s time to get to know stevia.

Native to Paraguay and other tropical areas of the Americas, the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana) produces leaves packed with super-sweet compounds that remain stable even after the leaves have been dried.

Stevia leaves have been used to sweeten teas and beverages throughout South America for centuries.

More recently, diabetics and dieters alike have turned to stevia to reduce their sugar intake because, unlike honey, maple syrup, agave or molasses, this natural sweetener has zero calories and is not metabolized by the body.

Stevia is especially well-suited to sweetening drinks, fruits, salad dressings, yogurt and most creamy desserts. Stevia can substitute for some, but not all, of the sugar used when baking, because it does not provide all of the multiple functions that sugar does.

Many commercial drink mixes and packaged sugar substitutes are sweetened with a derivative of stevia.

This sweetening compound is called Rebaudioside A and is listed on labels as either Reb A or Rebiana.

These are highly processed products developed by large food corporations. Most of the raw stevia used to produce these products is grown in China. These “natural sweeteners” have been stripped of many of the plant’s healthful properties.

On the other hand, growing your own stevia to produce teas, extracts, and tinctures made from high-quality, whole-leaf stevia contains up to seven sweet compounds (glycosides) and an array of antioxidants. Growing stevia is easy in well-drained beds or large containers, and the leaves can be dried for winter use like any other herb. Stevia grows best in warm conditions similar to those preferred by basil.

Here’s a link to making your own stevia powder and liquid:
https://wholelifestylenutrition.com/videos/how-to-make-your-own-pure-stevia-liquid-stevia-part-2/

Last weekend I hosted a community garage sale for a local nonprofit (post to come) and someone brought a box of strawberry slips. I took a few, quickly dug a bed, and put them in the ground. Since we hardly ever throw stuff away, I found a length of white wire fencing tucked away behind the greenhouse. There’s nothing better than organic strawberries! Yum, can’t wait!strawberrybed

The weather is so crazy here, my apple and plum trees are blossoming again.

During the last few days SoCal broke tons of heat records along with a few drops of rain —and then nothing.

But it was a beautiful sunrise over the lagoon, right?sunrise looking toward lagoon