Today is Herb Day, the internal celebration of herbs and herbal products. Always on the first Saturday in May, Herb Day was created in 2006 by a coalition of five organizations: American Botanical Council, United Plant Savers, American Herbal Products Association, American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, and American Herbalists Guild. Usually there would be herb-related events across the country but today let’s celebrate by making lemon balm cookies!
Many of you know that I am interested in growing edibles and herbs in my Virginia garden. Before this time of physical distancing, I gave presentations to local gardening clubs on culinary herbs. Now that we are not able to gather, I have been taking advantage of this time to delve deeper into the herbs’ uses. I am spending more time experimenting with new recipes and new plants. This week, because the lemon balm is so lush, I harvested the leaves to make lemon balm cookies and lemon balm bread. I also brewed hot lemon balm tea. When I work with an herb in the kitchen, I see so much potential, so many more uses. Smelling the lemon balm’s lemon scent, seeing the texture of the leaves and how easily they can be chopped makes me think of combining chopped leaves with melted butter, drizzled on fish, or adding chopped leaves to a chicken salad for a tang, or adding whole leaves to a fruit salad as a garnish. And then the more I see the potential and the more I use lemon balm, the more it becomes an essential plant in my garden.
Lemon balm is an easy herb to grow, it does not spread in my garden. It can be grown in a container for the summer. If you have a friend who has lemon balm, you can either dig up part of it or root the stems in water. Or you can buy small plants at independent garden centers in this area. Give it morning sun and afternoon shade, soil that is more on the moist side, and it will come back every year.
Lemon Balm Cookies
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh lemon balm leaves
1 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ tsp salt
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, lemon balm, and grated lemon peel. Mix well and add flour, baking powder, and salt. Drop by spoon on to a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Yields about two dozen cookies.
Lemon Balm Bread
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter, softened
¼ cup chopped fresh lemon balm leaves
1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
½ cup milk
Grease two small loaf pans. Cream butter, sugar and leaves, add eggs. Add remaining ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Makes two pans. Can try with ½ cup of chopped nuts if prefer.