Last month we talked about some of the more common mints one might find in the garden. Now let’s talk about some of their common cousins.
I’ll begin with the genus Melissa. Now, there aren’t many species in this genus, but there is one that stands out to me and I grow it for many uses. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is one of my favorites because of its many uses in the garden and in the kitchen.
Lemon balm, like most plants in the Lamiaceae family, is a great bee plant. The blooms are off-white to yellow and appear in clusters along an elongate stem at the joining point of the leaves in late summer, making this one of the sustaining sources for the autumn buildup of honey.
Lemon balm is used in teas. It can be combined with valerian and/or chamomile to make a relaxing evening beverage. It can also be combined with catnip to make a tea for settling stomach upset and colic.
Lemon balm is also used in baking. I like to flavor sugar with the fresh leaves in order to add a mild lemon accent to cookies, cakes and puddings. Place fresh whole leaves and soft stems into a glass, quart canning jar. Layer them with granulated sugar, close lid and refrigerate for three to four days. The sugar will pick up the flavor of the lemon balm.
Origanum is another genus of mints I have in the garden. Oregano (Origanum vulgare) not only provides nectar for the bees in the summer, but it is one of the most harvested aromatic herbs I use for cooking. Mexican and Italian dishes that I prepare all have some hint of oregano in them. It is also used in some of my vegetable soups.
Sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana) is another favorite in the kitchen garden. It is used in most soup dishes, poultry, casseroles, some bread dough and beef roast dishes. The sweet, fresh flavor makes it a truly all-purpose herb and it is a good bee plant as well.
Next month, we’ll explore more fresh culinary herbs in the Lamiaceae family. In the meantime, begin your own research on the many thousands of herbs in the mint family.
Thanks for reading!
Be sure to find me on Facebook at "Herb Farmer-The Herb Farm."
As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using this or any other herbal remedy.