Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is a very tolerant plant from the mint family. While it likes sun, it can also flourish in partial sun. Being that it is part of the mint family, once you plant it, lemon balm can take over the garden. It can also be grown as an indoor potted herb.
The plant grows to about 24 inches, higher if left unkempt. The white flowers tend to bloom in mid- to late summer.
The heart shaped leaves have scalloped edges. The stems are square. The whole plant smells delightfully lemony, with the scent being at its best when the tiny flowers begin to open.
Harvesting Lemon Balm
Our favorite thing to do is harvest lemon balm. The lemony scent fills the air as you pick the leaves. You can harvest lemon balm any time, but it is best to do it before it flowers. After it flowers, it loses some of it’s pungent flavor, and also some of the medicinal qualities. Once it starts to flower, the plant is sending the energy to the flower, and the seeds.
When picking it, be very careful not to bruise the leaves as you harvest. The leaves can be used fresh in salads, drinks or other culinary delights. The lemon balm leaves can be rubbed on as an insect repellent straight from the garden.
To harvest the full lemon balm plant, cut the entire plant 2″ above the ground. It is best to dry lemon balm quickly, so that the leaves do not blacken. Do this by drying on trays. You may use a dehydrator on an herb temperature setting, or even a low set oven. Do not hang to dry. It is best to harvest in the morning after the dew has passed. This will help prevent it from molding.