In the world of plant allies, the lemon balm plant is a cheerful and uplifting one. It carries a soft lemon scent that is sure to lift your spirits. If you are feeling blue and down in the dumps, this is the herb for you. If grief has gotten the better of you, spend time with lemon balm and it may help ease your pain.
Lemon balm plant is an herbal ally worth preserving and harvesting. Here are some tips on how to harvest, dry, and preserve this amazing plant ally.
Harvesting Lemon Balm
To get the most potency, harvest lemon balm plant leaves in the morning before the heat of the day or any time after the plant has developed a good number of leaves. To harvest lemon balm, pinch off a few leaves whenever you need them for fresh use, or gather a full harvest once the plants are big enough.
Harvesting just before the lemon balm plant flowers is said to give the best flavor and scent. If this is done early in the season, it can cause the plant to become more bushy, giving you more leaves to harvest later on. Just be sure to leave some of the plants to flower for bees. Harvesting at different times will ensure you have plenty of new growth all season long.
The method for harvesting is pretty easy. Simply cut the stems just above a pair of leaves using sharp scissors or pruning shears. Cut the plant back to within six to eight inches of the soil. Only remove two-thirds of the vegetative growth at any one time. Finish by pruning stray stems and shaping so that the plant looks tidy, then water it deeply.
Should I Wash the Herbs?
If you grow your own lemon balm plant and it is free of pesticides, there is no need to wash the plant before using it or drying it. Washing can strip the oils from the leaves; if you are using store-bought herbs, gently rinse them and dry them completely.
Drying lemon balm can preserve the quality and flavor of the plant for storage. An easy way to have it on hand all year long is to dry it at home. The process is simple and safe, and you will soon have lemon balm when you want to relax for a good night’s sleep!
1. Air drying
To air-dry lemon balm plant, gather 5-6 stems together and tie them up around the stem with a piece of string. To allow for good air circulation, do not tie too many stems together. Hang your bunches of lemon balm in a cool dry and dark spot in your house.
Drying herbs can take anywhere from a few days to three weeks, depending on the level of humidity in your home. Be sure the leaves are completely dry and brittle before you take them down.
2. Using a dehydrator
Remove leaves from stems then lay the leaves in a single layer on the drying trays of a dehydrator. Set the temperature at its lowest setting (95°F or 35°C) and dry for 12 to 18 hours.
3. Oven drying
Place herbs in the oven with the temperature on the lowest setting. Since my oven won’t go lower than 170 degrees F, this is what I use. The herbs will dry in about an hour, but make sure that you leave the door slightly ajar. If you close it, the herbs will bake and this will ruin them. After about an hour, take them out of the oven and let cool. They should appear shriveled and dark in color.
Store the dried lemon balm in an airtight container such as a Mason jar. Keep away from light and heat to retain the maximum amount of flavor. Dried lemon balm properly dried using one of the above techniques should last many months without losing potency or flavor.
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