Friday, 28 November 2008

Lemon Verbena - Thank the Spanish For That

Lemon Verbena - Thank the Spanish For ThatI must admit I've never had the pleasure of growing Lemon Verbena, but I have seen it in other peoples' gardens and have been quite fascinated with the distinctive lemon characteristics that the leaves present. So when I came across the herbs picture on the web, I recognised it straight away and remembered the scent it gave out on my hand after stroking the tough leaves.

Lemon verbena or sometime called Lemon bee brush is a deciduous perennial shrub originating from South America typically, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, and Peru. The Spanish brought it into Europe during the 17th century. It can grow up to around 3 metres high and sends out a powerful lemony scent. The herb has light green leaves that are lance-shaped. It blooms tiny flowers of lavender or white thatm show themsleves during the months of August or September.

The leaves are the main source of the lemon having a wonderful lemony scent and flavour accompaniment. The leaves are rough textured so they are usually processed or very finely chopped. The other process is to make an infusion in oil, vinegar or water turning out a flavoured sauce for ice cream and jellies. Lemon verbena is used extensively in fish and poultry dishes along with vegetable marinades, salad dressings, jams, puddings including sorbet and other beverages sorbet.

Like many herbs tea can be made from the leaves. This particular herb is popular in France known locally as ’tisane de vervain’. Lemon verbena tea recipe is really quite easy and economical to make. Just put three leaves in a cup, pour over very hot, but not boiling water. Steep for five minutes and drink. It's that easy. As an alternative it can be served cold in summer.

In addition to the food enhancing it contributes to, it is used in the treatment Candida (a yeast overgrowth) as it has properties that eliminate the fungus.

Lemon Verbena - Thank the Spanish For ThatIt is said that to culture Lemon verbena it is best grown in a pot. It doesn't like frost and will need protection in winter, which is why the pot option is best. However, whenever I have seen it in gardens it is planted permanently outside and covered with netting in the winter.

Established plants can be bought from larger garden centres although the cheaper option and in my option the more exciting and rewarding option is to grow it your own from cuttings. You can do this right the way through from the softwood in the spring to the hardwood in early autumn. As with most wood cuttings for propagation, simple secure the cutting(s) into a mix of compost and grit and transfer into larger pots once they’ve got roots.

In my research I found out that the American series of 'In the Little House on the Prairie’ that I used to watch in the U.K,. In one episode, one of the characters dons the scent of lemon verbena.

One final tip I found that I found rather novel, was to crush a few leaves and put then them into the bag of your vacuum cleaner. A clean fresh lemon fragrance is the reward you get after the vacuuming is done!

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