Taste Test: Lemon balm


I got a lovely surprise in my CSA box last week — lemon balm. It's a herb related to mint, and it smells a lot like lemon. Lemon balm is believed to have a stress-reducing effect, and if you rub the leaf and take a whiff of the scent, you'll immediately know why — it's such a peaceful, happy smell, a bit more cozy than lemongrass but not as pungent as lemon verbena.

Lemon balm vinaigrette
Mix the following ingredients in a small bowl: 1 tbsp minced shallots, 2 tbsp minced lemon balm, 1/2 tsp lemon zest, 6 tbsp fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 4 tbsp white wine vinegar, and 1 tsp brown sugar. Slowly blend in up to 8 tbsp of vegetable oil — I used olive oil, and it was super tasty.

Recipe link (via Eatwell Farm)

Lemon balm is native to Europe in the Middle Ages, and even back then it was thought to be a calming agent. The leaves can also act as a mosquito repellent and are antibacterial.

Lemon balm is great in tea or as a garnish to meat or a salad. I used most of mine minced in a salad dressing (see recipe on right), and dumped the rest in a cup of hot water for a refreshing tea.

Every installment of Taste Test will explore recipes, the science, and some history behind a specific food item.

Image via color line's Flickr