The mildest of the lemon group of herbs
A member of the mint family, lemon balm is used as a calmative. It was used in the Middle Ages to reduce anxiety and stress. As a native of Southern Europe, it is still very popular and widely available in Europe. In Central Europe, lemon balm is sometimes used to flavor sweet drinks.
Lemon Balm has lemon scented mint like leaves that are most often used to make an aromatic tea called Tisane. Its slightly tart flavor is used in salads and with poultry and meat dishes. Lemon balm is often used as a flavoring in ice cream and herbal teas, both hot and iced.
Most of the time, lemon balm is used in combination with other herbs such as spearmint.. It has a great affinity with fruit, especially apples and is also frequently paired with fruit dishes or candies. Lemon balm can be used to add zest to sweet or tangy dishes. Besides spearmint mentioned earlier, it works well with allspice, bay leaves, mint, pepper, rosemary and thyme. Lemon balm is also great in fruit salads, green salads, herb butters, fruit drinks, and sorbets.
It can be used in egg dishes, custards, soups and casseroles. It is a delicious complement in stuffing for poultry, lamb or pork. Its subtle lemon flavor is perfect for sauces and marinades for fish. Lemon balm and chervil are also a good combination. Use lemon balm leaves for any dish containing lemon juice to get a more intense lemon aroma. If you are a pesto fan, like I am, try substituting lemon balm for basil in a batch of pesto. I don’t think you will be disappointed.
As Balm, this herb is mentioned in the Bible. If there is no lemon balm to be had try lemon grass or lemon verbena.