A clump-forming perennial with heart shaped, deeply veined leaves that are covered with stiff hairs, it grows 30cm – 90cm high. . It looks very similar to mint in appearance, but it is not as invasive and easier to control. Here in south east Queensland lemon balm does not flower.
Lemon Balm has a delicate flowery lemon flavour and has a wide variety of uses. The fresh leaves can be used as a garnish for drinks, desserts and savoury dishes. It adds zing to fruit salads, garden salads, fruit drinks and punch, sorbet, herb butters, dressing and sauces. Lemon balm butter with a little pepper added goes well with corn, broccoli, beans and asparagus. Use in marinades or sauces to accompany fish or chicken. It is also nice stirred through sautéed shellfish.
Lemon balm livens up any apple dish, add chopped lemon balm to apple sauce to serve with meat or mix some into the apple in apple crumble or apple custard. A baked cheesecake will be transformed by the addition of lemon balm and a little honey.
An infusion of lemon balm makes a refreshing uplifting tea served either hot or cold.
Lemon balm is a useful medicinal and combines nicely with other medicinal herbs. An infusion of the leaves will induce perspiration to help cool a fever associated with cold and flu. It is also a relaxing tea to relieve anxiety and mild depression especially when these conditions cause nervous indigestion. Lemon balm is also used for nervous headaches and for digestive problems such as nausea, bloating and colic. The juice from the leaves or a strong infusion can be dabbed on cold sores and in studies has been proven to reduce healing time and lessen re-occurrence. Bruised fresh leaves can be applied to insect bites, cuts and grazes.
Lemon balm prefers rich moist soil and partial shade. It can tolerate direct sunlight but the leaves may yellow slightly during hot summers in full sun, plants grown in shade tend to be larger and more succulent. Lemon balm is a good companion to fruit trees, plants from the onion family, tomatoes and roses.