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Lemon balm is a lemon-scented, aromatic perennial plant that is in the Lamiaceae (mint) family. Although recognized in Canada and the U.S. as a cultivated plant, lemon balm has naturalized in many area far from cultivated gardens. This plant grows in the wild in many countries world wide. Genus name comes from the Greek word melissa meaning a honeybee, also the name of a Cretan princess who first discovered how to obtain honey.
This mint has serrated (somewhat) heart-shaped leaves and whorls of small white flowers. Lemon Balm is a fairly typical example of plants in the mint family. Its foliage usually has a mild lemon fragrance, otherwise this plant is rather similar to several other species in the mint family with small whitish flowers.
Pale white labial flowers, which are approximately 1 cm in size, grow from the leaf axils in semi-verticils. Lemon balm flowers anywhere from June to September depending on geographic location.
The opposed leaves, whose stalked stems vary in length, are broadly oval to heart-shaped and have an irregular crenate (rounded teeth) or serrate (small, sharp teeth) edge. The dark green upper surface of the leaf is sparsely haired and has very prominent veins.
Lemon balm can grow up to 80 cm tall (30”). The stem is a shaped like a square (like all mints) and can branch.
Native to the Mediterranean and various regions in Northern Africa, Western Asia, and Southern Europe, it is widely cultivated and has naturalized throughout the world in temperate areas. It can tolerate a variety of soils and although it can grow in shady locations, it much prefers sunny locations at elevations up to approximately 1000 metres.
Leaves are commonly used as a relaxing tea. They can be added into many dishes in which the lemon flavour can be enjoyed. Lemon balm has been added to many desserts including ice cream and custards. It is always to be used fresh when using for food (other than a tea).
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