Meet the Lemon Verbena Lady, one of our dedicated guest bloggers. She regularly blogs about the happenings in her herb garden and shares many of her most scrumptious herbal recipes. Lemon Verbena Jelly one of her favorites, mainly because it is made with her favorite herb—lemon verbena. Here are just a few of the things that she loves about this citrusy herb.
Several years ago, when I opened an e-mail address, I decided that I would not use my real name, but an herb. I had married a gentleman from Peru—The Herbal Husband. It was easy to pick the herb—lemon verbena. Cedron is Spanish for lemon verbena. It was the herb of the princess (Maria Louisa, wife of King Charles IV of Spain). Don't confuse it with lemon grass. It is a plant of American origin (that is Chile, very close to Peru). It is a perennial in tropical areas that can reach to ten feet high.
It is a tender perennial for us in the north. We always have it on our kitchen windowsill in the winter. When you bring it in, it will play dead and lose its leaves. Use them for tea or in potpourri. I would only use fresh leaves in cooking. Once it is in the house, you should water it every week to ten days. Then in December, cut it back to about 3- to 4-inches. In February, it will resprout and by the time it is ready to go outside in May, you will have a plant a little larger than the one in the photo. Although, this one came from the ground this year! It is a miracle and does not happen regularly for gardeners in Zone 6. It is always very exciting when that happens.
Here are some of my favorite thoughts about lemon verbena.
• In Gone with the Wind, lemon verbena is the favorite scent of Scarlett O’Hara’s mother, as Theresa Loe notes in The Herbal Home Companion.
• With its citrusy flavor, lemon verbena can be used in place of lemon juice in hot tea and iced drinks.
• In The Best of Thymes, Marge Clark writes about using dried lemon verbena leaves. “I treat dried lemon verbena leaves like bay leaves. Since the leaves are rather coarse and dry, I try to use them whole-leaf so they can be removed at the end of cooking. If leaves are not or cannot be used whole, then chop them fine or, better yet, whirl in food processor or blender to make a powder. Fresh leaves are best for cooking.”
• In Growing & Using Herbs with Confidence, Bertha Reppert talks about the history of lemon verbena when she writes, “Housewives once sewed lemon verbena leaves into the darts of their Sunday dresses, replacing them when necessary—a fragrant, natural deodorant.”
Here is my favorite lemon verbena recipe. I love the recipe because it can be made in my original Cuisinart machine! It is very, very easy! It comes from the March 1990 issue of The Herb Companion.
• 1 stick unsalted butter
• 1/4 cup fresh lemon verbena leaves, chopped
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 1/2 cup sifted flour
• 2 large eggs
• Pinch of salt
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 cup milk
• Grated rind of 1 lemon
• 3/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 2 tablespoons lemon verbena leaves, chopped
• Juice of 1 lemon
1. Cream butter with verbena leaves in mixer or food processor. I use my food processor. Add sugar and beat well. Then add eggs, salt and remaining ingredients.
2. Grease loaf pans—1 large, 2 small or 4 minis—and pour in batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 65 minutes. I usually bake it in one large pan. Bake until bread tests done with a toothpick or cake tester. Meanwhile, prepare glaze. (I usually don't use the glaze. I'm giving it to you because every person's taste is different.)
3. Leave loaf in pan. While it is still hot, pour glaze over it and let sit several hours. Remove loaf from pan. Wrap in foil to ripen overnight before serving, or freeze immediately.
This is what lemon verbena looks like in the garden during September of last year. The flowers are insignificant; the leaves are why you grow this plant. Also, the clear and crisp flavor of lemon is a reason you will want this in the garden. Give it well-drained soil and full sun and you will be rewarded with a 4-foot gem.
So what's in an herbal name? One of my favorite herbs in the world!