WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE LEMON-SCENTED HERB? Mine, pictured up top, is Lemon Verbena. This Aloysia triphylla is more lemony than a lemon tree and all of its parts, each leaf a tantalizing blend of lemon peel, honey, and a Mediterranean breeze that calms the nerves and refreshes the spirit. I may not tuck leaves of lemon verbena in my bosom as Victorian ladies did, but I do enjoy them into other ways:
In white wine. On hot summer evenings, I like to lounge in the Herb Garden (above), while sipping icy-cold Pinot Grigio enlivened with a sprig of lemon verbena. A number of friends can testify to the fragrant merits of this beverage, as can a lovely lady from the local garden club. She sipped this ambrosia rather happily while serving as a docent during a garden tour here last year.
For poultry and fish. To give chicken breasts, turkey burgers or fish fillets a lemony lift, I simply place whole leaves on top of meat. Seared in a hot skillet, verbena-side-down first, the leaves adhere to fish or fowl throughout the cooking process. You might like this recipe for Salmon, Steamed in Lemon Verbena & Pinot Grigio.
In salads. Want to perk up your tuna salad, chicken salad, or a plain green salad? Chop up a few lemon verbena leaves and toss them into the mix.
Culture: Triphylla isn’t the least demanding. Mine, planted in the sunny herb garden, grows with rapid exuberance in full sun and well-draining soil. Prune frequently or the plant will become a mighty shrub in three months’ time.
Where winters are mild, the plant can be grown as a die-back perennial. After defoliating frost, cut back to 3 inches, and cover with a thick layer of shredded leaves or salt hay. Otherwise, confine the plant to a clay pot, and let it overwinter it in a cool, sunny window or beneath fluorescents.
Here in zone 5-b, lemon verbena is not hardy. But I don’t mind buying a fresh young seedling from my local greenhouse every spring. It’s not an expensive plant, and besides, it really earns its keep.
Do you have a favorite lemon-scented herb?
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