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Preserving Lemon Verbena

August 19th, 2010

Last year I bought a lemon verbena plant and overwintered it in the basement. This summer it’s really taken off so I have an abundance of it. I’ve been looking for ways to use this lovely lemony herb so that none of it goes to waste. It’s a wonderful way to bring some summer flavor into the long cold winter months here in Ohio. One of the best ways I’ve found is by add diced fresh leaves to recipes, like scones, cakes or cookies, but you can’t do that in winter. Lemon verbena dries beautifully and retains it’s flavor, so you can easily add some to your winter teas if you have a stash of dried leaves in the pantry.

Lemon verbena cooler is especially refreshing after a hot afternoon or gardening. To make: pick a handful of lemon verbena leaves, tear or chop and add to a pitcher full of water, steep overnight and enjoy the next day. If you like a little sweetness, add sugar before drinking. You can also make lemon verbena syrup to use in mixed drinks, as flavoring for ice cream, desserts and just about anywhere a lemony flavor would be welcome. I find that lemon verbena is quite delicious when added to jams and jellies. Simply add a few leaves when cooking down the berries, strain out and process as desired.

Lemon verbena can also be used to infuse sugar with a lemony flavor. I can think of many places a lemony sugar would be welcome, particularly in ice cream, iced tea, or other sweet treats like cookies and cakes. Of course you can also add a few vanilla beans to make a vanilla lemon sugar.

Lemon verbena leaves retain their scent when dried, so you can dry the leaves to use for flavoring and for potpourri to scent your home. You can also make a lemon verbena hair rinse by steeping a few lemon verbena leaves in a cup of hot water, then using to rinse hair after washing and conditioning. This leaves your hair with a wonderful lemony fresh scent.

I’m also experimenting with make lemon verbena liqueur. I’m steeping 1 1/2 cups of chopped lemon verbena in 4 cups of organic vodka. After 2 weeks I’ll be adding 2 cups of organic evaporated cane juice. I’m thinking this will be a great Christmas gift for friends that enjoy mixed beverages, being a rather dry person myself I won’t be consuming any.

I also made some lemon verbena syrup. Heat one cup of water until hot, then add 3/4 cup of evaporated cane juice and dissolve. Then added 1/2 cup of chopped lemon verbena leaves. Steep for an 30 minutes or so, then strain and refrigerate or can. Enjoy as a sweetener for teas, sauces, sweets or wherever you want a hint of lemon flavor.

What’s your favorite herb to save up for winter use?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.