Refreshing, uplifting, zesty, slightly sweet; lemon balm is an herb that has the ability to improve your mood just by its smell.
Nibbling the leaves takes you a refreshing step further into a subtle yet satisfying citrus-y flavor. Lemon balm is also called Balm Mint. It imparts a subtle lemon flavor and from a culinary perspective is a nice addition to dishes both sweet and savory that might benefit from slightly lemony, sweet, and refreshing flavor notes. Because it contains an interesting spectrum of chemical compounds, like rosmarinic acid, the Journal of Meat Science (yeah I know, who knew there was a peer reviewed journal dedicated to meat) suggests that lemon balm also has the potential to be a food preservative; making it a healthier option.
For all of its subtle flavor, lemon balm packs many other healthful properties. Just the scent is a mood booster and improves mental focus. Sipping it as tea, which is actually my favorite way to enjoy it, is refreshing and can help manage stress by acting as a mild sedative. Lemon Balm also has amazing antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial qualities. Research demonstrates it is highly effective in exerting a direct inhibitory effect on systemic viruses like the herpes virus. It also has exhibited promising success in the treatment of Grave’s disease and instances of hyperthyroidism. Whether eating it in foods, sipping as a tea, or supplementing it in other ways, lemon balm can play a strong role in helping to decrease oxidative stress and repair DNA damage within cell plasma. Topically, lemon balm helps protect and repair damage to the dermal layer and it also acts as a fantastic insect repellent. Keep a jar of lemon balm salve handy for minor skin irritations and issues including relieving the irritation of pesky bug bites.
For a great refreshing addition to a meal you could try making this lemon balm pesto:
Just blend up all the ingredients and you’re ready to go:
- 2 cups fresh lemon balm
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3-4 cloves garlic
Or if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can try the nettle lemon balm cupcakes below. Oh yes... yummalicious.
Word of caution: if you are taking medication for underactive thyroid, it’s possible the lemon balm can inhibit the uptake and assimilation.
NETTLE LEMON BALM CUPCAKES
(from Cordial Wildcrafted Consumables)
- 3 eggs (farm fresh if possible)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups of raw sugar
- 100 g raw young nettle leaves - It's best to weigh this amount. But basically you want a 1/2 cup of puree
- handful of lemon balm
- 3/4 cup of olive oil (light or extra light works best)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Zest of 1 lemon (1/2 for cake + 1/2 for frosting)
- 2 cups flour (I tried it with a barley flour just for kicks and it made them heavier but really yum)
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350
Make sure you have your gloves on and give your nettle leaves a quick wash in cold water and remove the stems. Do the same with your lemon balm, but you don't have to worry about stems.
Steam the nettles and lemon balm or quickly par boil for 5 minutes to remove the sting. Drain and puree. *I have skipped the steaming before to limit the amount of processing to the greens. And it tasted lovely—but definitely stronger. You have to add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to the leaves to get them to puree properly. However, if you prefer a slightly milder flavour and an easier go of it, give them a quick steam.
Beat eggs and sugar until light and creamy. Add vanilla, oil, lemon juice and nettle lemon balm puree. Mix until just combined.
In a separate bowl sift flour, baking powder and salt. Mix into the nettle lemon balm mixture—again just until combined and smooth. You don't want to overmix.
Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for 22-30 minutes—check with a toothpick for doneness. Makes 48 mini cupcakes.
LEMON MASCARPONE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
- 2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 lemon - finely zested
Beat butter and cheese until light and creamy.
Add sugar and continue beating. Add lemon juice & zest and continue beating until smooth.