What is Lemon Verbena?
Lemon verbena or lemon beebrush is an intensely aromatic plant native to Argentina and Chile. It was brought to Europe with early explorers, and became a popular addition to herb gardens in places like England. The rich, citrus scent is quite striking, and it is paired with an intense citrus flavor, but without the bitterness of true lemons. In addition to being an aromatic addition to the garden, lemon verbena also has culinary, cosmetic, and aromatherapeutic uses.
The plant likes light, loamy soil, full sun, and a great deal of water. Lemon verbena is usually propagated from cuttings, which are trimmed to promote shrub-like growth. It is a hardy perennial in USDA zones 9 and 10, but will need to be brought indoors in colder regions, since it dies in frosty or very cold weather. If it takes well to its location, the plant will grow up to 10 feet (3 meters) in height, producing long slender leaves and clusters of tiny white flowers.
In cooking, lemon verbena is used in a wide range of dishes. The intense flavor can be used like lemons would be in sorbet, or it can be added to herbal rubs for roast and fish. It's also used to flavor alcohol, oils, and marinades. Both fresh and dried leaves can be used in cooking. Since the flavor is very strong, cooks who are unfamiliar with this herb should start in small amounts.
Some cosmetics also use lemon verbena, for its rich aroma. It is believed to be a calming, sedative herb, so it is often used in cosmetics designed to reduce stress. In aromatherapy, lemon verbena may be combined with herbs like lavender and clary sage for a relaxing blend of essential oils that can be used in massage or aromatherapy diffusers.
A tea can be made from dried or fresh leaves. The plant may soothe the stomach, making it a good choice for people with stomach upset, along with mild herbs like chamomile. Since lemon verbena is calming, it is often added to de-stress teas, and it may promote healthy sleep. As with all herbs and essential oils, people should not use it medicinally without consulting a medical professional, and if symptoms persist, the patient should stop taking the herb until the cause can be found.
Lemon verbena is a nice little plant and I agree that it smells very good. But the leaves are kind of a pain, because they fall out too much. My plant is indoors right now and I'm tired of cleaning up the leaves. It also has to be trimmed once in a while or it doesn't flower in spring.
I haven't made lemon verbena tea yet or used it in cooking. I guess I should. I did put a few leaves into lemonade once for an extra lemony flavor and that was quite good. I need to look up some lemon verbena recipes.
@ddljohn-- I think people in England keep their lemon verbena indoors.
I think lemon verbena will be fine in Dallas but keep an eye on it when winter rolls around. You might have to move it indoors for a few months.
I live in zone 7, so I have to move mine inside during winter, which is not a problem for me. Plus, I enjoy using dried lemon verbena leaves when I cook or when I make tea. I think it's a great plant and it smells divine.
I'm surprised that lemon verbena, a plant that likes warm weather, can survive in European countries like England.
I live in Dallas, which is USDA zone 8a. Will a lemon verbena plant be okay here?
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