Once sacred to the temple of Diana, lemon balm has been used since classical times for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Its powerful lemon and mild mint flavors make it the perfect seasoning for iced tea, eggs, vegetables, salads, fish, soups, casseroles, fruit punches and stuffing for wild game or pork. This herb also forms a basis for the popular cordial eau des Carmes; it can be found in various other liqueurs as well. Its use in different teas may be derived from its nickname, the “elixir of life," since lemon balm is believed to renew youth and increase longevity. (There are several cases of people who lived far past the age of 100 and claimed it was due to a morning cup of lemon-balm tea.) Also used to treat fevers, headaches, insomnia, blisters, wounds and anxiety, lemon balm is a very valuable herb that is delicious in foods and effective in healing.
Lemon balms fresh, sour-lemon taste makes the herb an excellent substitute for, or an addition to, regular lemon or lemon zest. This fresh herb seasons savory as well as sweet dishes. Cold sauces,soups or vegetables get a lemony lift. Desserts and fruit salads also beneft from the refreshing zip of lemon balm. Cook your dish first, and then add the fresh leaves.
Be sure to use fresh lemon balm for cooking. It can be frozen very easily for the winter months. Add a few lemon-balm leaves to ice-cube trays, freeze and later use them to make cool and refreshing drinks.
Lemon balm makes an excellent addition to herbal tea blends and mixes very well with lavender, uva-ursi, horsemint and Labrador tea.It also lightens the flavor of other mints, masks the flavor of bitter herbs (such as nettles, alfalfa and thistle), and adds lift to bland teas, including borage and red clover. Spice up egg, chicken or tuna salads with just a few sprigs of lemon balm in place of parsley, or use it as an aromatic garnish for foods and drinks. Lemon balm is used in Indonesian cuisine as a common substitute for lemongrass.
Lemon Balm Wine
Pour 1 quart of white wine over 2 oz. of chopped lemon balm and let stand at room temperature in a sealed container for 2 weeks. Strain through a coffee filter, and fill a dark bottle with it.