Farm Foraging: Lemon Balm Syrup

I love lemon balm. I was overjoyed to have discovered a plant growing wild practically outside my door, and because it was in an area that tended to puddle when it rains, I transplanted it into a pot. It thrived and soon, I was propagating cuttings and starting new plants. Curious about why I’m growing it with such enthusiasm? Read on!

Lemon balm has a number of useful properties, including having a calming effect (and who couldn’t use some of that from time to time, right?). Find more information on the health benefits of lemon balm here: 9 Benefits of Lemon Balm.

It also tastes great: herbal/lemony, with a faint suggestion of mint. Even without those beneficial properties, this plant would be worth cultivating and using for its flavor – or for that wonderful fragrance: it would make fantastic infused oil for body care products (and, if you read the article in the above link, you know it’s good for your skin), aromatic candles…it’s a really amazing, eye-opening scent.

Edible fragrant flowers lend themselves very well to infused syrups. I made lemon balm syrup recently and have already used it up, it’s that good! Here’s how I make it:

  • Harvest about a pint of leaves (2 cups), rinse, and roughly chiffonade (learn how here: Mint Chiffonade – How to Cut Mint Into Ribbons)
  • Place the chopped leaves into a quart jar
  • Boil 2 cups of water and pour over the chopped lemon balm
  • Steep for several hours
  • Strain out the spent leaves
  • Heat the infused liquid until it’s hot (but not boiling)
  • Add 2 cups of sugar and stir until it’s dissolved in the liquid
  • Allow the syrup to cool, and once cooled, pour into a bottle
  • Store the syrup in the refrigerator

How do I use the finished syrup? Right now, my absolute favorite way is to add it to my homemade Skeeter Pee (Lemon Wine) – the lemon balm syrup adds sweetness to this dry wine that helps bring out really luscious lemon flavors and complementary herbal notes. Chilled, it’s fabulous on a hot day. Try it!

Interested in propagating cuttings from a lemon balm plant? Simply cut a stem at least 4″ long from your plant at a 45 degree angle, below a leaf node. Remove any leaves on the lower two thirds of the cutting and place the cutting into a jar or bottle filled with room temperature water (I like to use dechlorinated water). Replace the water daily. When the roots are an inch long, it’s ready for transplantation into good soil. I transplanted mine into organic potting soil enriched with our rabbits’ manure and, as you can see, they’re very happy.

Just this morning, I discovered another of these wonderful plants growing wild along the fenceline. I returned later and took some cuttings, which are now sitting pretty in a glass vase (a repurposed sauce bottle with a perfectly-sized opening for the plants), hopefully soon to put forth some roots. Some of this plant’s leaves were lacy from insect damage, but it will now have a chance to recover and grow strong and tall…and, someday, become part of a delectable edible or nuturing skin care product. Wildcrafting rocks!

As with any plant, you’ll want to ensure that you have correctly identified it before using it. One resource is here: Growing and Foraging for Lemon Balm.

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