The botanical name Aloysia is after Maria Luisa, wife of Charles IV of Spain (1788-1808) and triphylla in reference to its whorls of three leaves. A native of South America where it grows ten to fifteen feet tall, lemon verbena was brought to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 17th century where it was grown for its lemony oil that was used in colognes. In Victorian England, lemon verbena was floated in fingerbowls. Brought to New England by the colonists to impart lemon flavor to fruits and desserts, it was later used as a tea substitute. Lemon verbena with its intense lemon-like scent, which is both crisp and relaxing at the same time, is the best of the lemon-herb teas. Brewed from the leaves and flowering tops, it is both tasty by itself and in combination with other herbs especially licorice, mint, rose hips and the other lemon herbs. Steep 1tsp dried or 1Tbs fresh leaves in a cup of boiling water for 5 to 15 minutes. It is a mildly sedative tea which may soothe congestion and reduce indigestion and is great with honey after meals.
Lemon verbena is a small and aromatic tender perennial shrub hardy in zones 8-11. Its light green leaves are long, pointed, rough textured and slightly toothed with a sweet lemon scent that leaps from the leaves at the slightest touch. Dainty sprays of small white to pale purple blossoms bloom from August to September, are irresistible to bumblebees and have a delicate additional scent of vanilla. It thrives in the hot sun, is a heavy feeder, requires a lot of water, but will grow 2-3 feet in a season. A great way to have lots of lemon verbena is to grow it in a large pot or tub with good drainage in a well-drained potting soil. Lemon Verbena is an evergreen shrub in frost free areas, however when exposed to frost, it becomes deciduous losing its leaves. In containers, it may be over wintered indoors, but will initially lose its leaves then begin putting out new ones in March. Summer cuttings are the best way to propagate as they root quickly and easily. However, they should be grown for at least their first winter in a greenhouse. It is best to harvest when the flowers bloom in late summer by trimming the branches as if giving it a haircut, but regular pruning every six weeks will stimulate the plant to branch out and make a fuller shrub. The leaves and flowers may be used fresh or dried and unlike some herbs, lemon verbena will retain its scent for years making it an excellent potpourri ingredient.
In addition to tea and potpourri, lemon verbena is valued for cooking, cosmetics and crafts. As a companion to citrus lemon, its flavor holds up to cooking. It can be chopped and scattered into salads, soups, rice or vegetables for an unexpected jolt of lemon or used whole to line cake pans or flavor sugar to top muffins or fruit. An herb butter with lemon verbena is great on grilled fish or chicken. Lemon verbena may be added to vinegar for a refreshing skin wash that stimulates the pores and circulation or macerated in almond oil for a massage. Bath bags made with lemon verbena, rose petals and oatmeal may be added to your tub to relieve fatigue and overcome apathy. In addition, its strong and penetrating lemon scent is useful for perfuming drawers and cupboards. If you grow just one lemon scented herb it should be lemon verbena.
TEA TIME TRIVIA
Lemon verbena is most frequently used as an infusion
consumed with honey after meals
SWEET HARVEST TEA
3Tbs dried lemon verbena
3Tbs dried lemon balm
1/3c dried spearmint
2Tbs dried orange peel
1Tbs dried calendula petals
1tsp dried organic lavender
Mix all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container, away from heat and light. To Brew: Use 1tsp per cup or 1 heaping Tablespoon per 4-6c pot, add boiling water and steep 5 minutes.
LEMON ROSE TEA
1/2c fresh lemon verbena leaves
1/4c rose hips
Bring 4c water to boil, reduce heat and add lemon verbena and rosehips. Remove from heat and steep covered 15 minutes. Strain into tea cups, sweeten with honey and serve.
LEMON LOVERS TEA
1/4c dried lemon verbena
1/4c dried lemon balm
1/4c dried lemon geranium leaves
2Tbs dried lemon thyme
2Tbs dried lemon grass
Mix all ingredients together and use 1tsp per cup or 1 heaping Tablespoon per 4-6c pot, add boiling water and steep 5 minutes.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”