If you've never rubbed a leaf of lemon verbena it's impossible to explain its lovely scent. Yes, it's lemon, but yet it's also a
captivating fragrance that almost instantly relaxes you. To me, it's the ultimate in aromatherapy. If you grow just one
lemon scented herb it should be lemon verbena. Although to grow just one lemon herb would be a shame, since they
are all so wonderful.
Lemon verbena, aloysia triphylla (formally Lippia citriodora), is a native of Chile and Peru, where it grows ten to fifteen
foot tall. I've read it can grow 5 foot or more in one season, but mine is only about a foot and a half tall at this point. We
have had some cool nights this summer, plus I can't resist harvesting it often, which I'm sure keeps it from growing to
it's full potential. Lemon verbena needs at least 6 hours of sun, and I found it did better in a traditional herb soil that was
on the dry side as well. Mine started out in a bed of good soil with compost and organic fertilizer, but did not branch out
or start growing until I moved it to my kitchen herb bed where it was slightly drier and had no added compost.
Lemon Verbena will not survive frost, but in cold climates it may be brought inside. Be prepared, because it will lose it's
leaves, but keep it in a sunny window and water once a week to keep it from drying out. By spring it will have leaves
again, and after the danger of frost has passed you can place the pot outside, burying it to the rim in your garden. It's
only hardy in Zones 9 and 10, and won't withstand temperatures below 40 degrees.
Unlike some herbs, lemon verbena will retain its scent for years when dried, which is why it's not only a popular culinary
herb, but also a potpourri ingredient. I dried mine in the oven on the lowest setting by placing it on baking sheets lined
with parchment paper. I was very pleased with the results and it only took 2-3 hours to dry. I combined it with pineapple
and apple mint, which made a nice tea.
I have also used it in herb vinegars this year combined with other lemon herbs as well as in mixtures with rosemary and
You can use lemon verbena in place of lemon zest in recipes. Virtually any fruit salad can be enhanced with its finely
chopped leaves. Bury 6 lemon verbena leaves in a cup of sugar that has been placed in a covered jar or container. Use
this sugar to top muffins, fruit, or sprinkle on the top of muffin batter before baking. Because the leaf is rather tough you'll
need to mince it very fine if you plan on leaving it in a dish, or add it whole and remove before serving. Dried, it should be
crumbled before adding to recipes.