Get down and dirty in the garden
You can check out the Lemon Verbena Lady at her blog Lemon Verbena Lady's Herb Garden .
I have been interested in doing this post about lemon verbena for a couple of weeks. So now would be the time to think about which lemon verbena (if you have multiples) to put in a container for overwintering in the house. My initial post called "The Lemon Verbena Lady’s Favorite Herb" will explain what happens when you bring your lemon verbena inside, and it includes my favorite bread recipe from (where else?) The Herb Companion.
I always love hearing from you, the readers of The Herb Companion magazine, and the timing couldn’t have been better. Just this week I had a question about freezing lemon verbena leaves, and making and freezing a simple syrup of lemon verbena. I discovered a link for herbal syrups from Susan Belsinger and Tina Marie Wilcox in an article from The Herb Companion called "Herbal Apothecary 101: Herbal Syrups." I remember trying to freeze some lemon verbena leaves a long time ago and deciding that that wasn’t the way to preserve your harvest of lemon verbena. I did an experiment though, because I thought if they can be frozen, I could make the delicious lemon verbena bread in winter and it would taste just like it does in the summer. For me, dried lemon verbena leaves are not the same as fresh in a recipe. Well, I can report that the leaves have frozen just fine and haven’t taken on the curled look of dried leaves. So I am going to make sure that I have a container or two of leaves to freeze for the winter months.
My thoughts on fresh versus dried lemon verbena leaves have remained the same. Use fresh if you can in cooking and baking and use dried leaves in potpourris and tea blends. If a recipe calls for dried in baking, I would use 2 to 3 times the fresh leaves instead of dried. I would always take the mid-rib of the large leaves out before using them. My favorite way to use lemon verbena leaves is by making jelly. Here is a link to my post called "Summertime Favorite: Lemon Verbena Jelly."
Three other ways to use lemon verbena leaves are by making butter, sugar and vinegar. I found this sweet butter recipe in a cookbook called Lemony Herbs from the Pennsylvania Heartland Unit of the Herb Society of America. You may still be able to pick up a copy of the cookbook. The recipe talks about it being wonderful with scones and tea biscuits. I didn’t mince the strawberries up too finely. So it’s a chunky butter. I’ll let you know on the Herb Companion’s Facebook page how it turned out.
Lemony Strawberry Butter
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened unsalted butter
• 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
• 4 tablespoons minced strawberries
• 1 teaspoon minced fresh lemon balm
• 1 teaspoon minced fresh lemon verbena
1. Combine all the ingredients.
Note: This might be a difficult one to keep for very long. It sounded just delicious though and good enough to maybe try freezing for those tea scones and biscuits in the fall or winter.
I did a post last year about using lemon verbena in sugar for baking and cooking. Here is that link called "The Lemon Verbena Tales: New Pests and Harvesting Tips."
My master gardening friend, Shelley, has let me share her lemon verbena cookie recipe. I made a batch and they are delicious and met with the approval of The Herbal Husband.
Lemon Verbena Sugar Cookies
MAKES APPROXIMATELY 4 DOZEN COOKIES
• 2 1/2 cups flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon verbena, chopped (I take out the mid-rib of each leaf before chopping it.)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
• 1 cup softened butter
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• Extra sugar for rolling
1. Combine dry ingredients, leaves and zest. Set aside.
2. Beat butter; add sugar, eggs and vanilla; beat until combined. Add half flour mixture, beat. Stir in remaining flour mixture with wooden spoon.
3. Make rounded teaspoons full of dough into rounded shapes, roll in extra sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes until edges lightly browned. Cool.
The last recipe I have for you comes from my herbal friend, Kathleen Gips who owns the wonderful Village Herb Shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. My herbal companion Bonnie and I have had such wonderful classes with Kathleen over the years. I think this was the year that lemon balm was the herb of the year in 2007! We took a workshop and made this lemony glass and surface cleaner.
Lemon Verbena Glass & Surface Cleaner
• 1 (1 quart) jar, or 1 jar that holds at least 4 cups
• 1 spray bottle that holds at least 4 cups
• 1 tablespoon castile soap
• 3 to 3 3/4 cups white distilled vinegar (I use 3 cups)
• 1/4 cup unscented alcohol (or cheap vodka)
• Sprigs of lemon verbena, lemon balm, lemongrass, mint and thyme
1. Pour liquid (except for soap and vodka) over herb sprigs and allow to age for two weeks. Strain into spray bottle and add soap and vodka. Use it to clean all glass and surfaces that are sealed. Do not use on wood.
Just one more quick reminder, if you live in the mid-Atlantic states, you should be on the lookout for the brown marmorated stink bug; it did damage to one of my lemon verbenas late in the season last year. You can read more about it in my post "The Lemon Verbena Tales: New Pests and Harvesting Tips." Keep watching for updates on the butter and cleaner and whether the frozen leaves work in the lemon verbena bread recipe on The Herb Companion’s Facebook page. I will post new developments there. So hopefully my tips and recipes will keep you in the delightful smell of lemon verbena long into the fall and winter. As always, if you have a comment or question about any of my posts, please write to me here on this post with a comment or my e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and put in the subject line “Herb Comment or Question.” Talk to you soon.