The Iliad talks of lemon balm healing the battle wounded over 2,700 years ago. Ancient and authentic, lemon balm is an essential herb in many horticultural arsenals. Crushing the leaves between your hands give off a fresh scent of lemon in the air and a sticky residue on your fingers. Surprisingly the plant is in the mint family and is easy to grow and use in a variety of applications.
History And Mythology
Pliny the Elder includes a talk on lemon balm in his naturalist writings in the middle of the first century B.C. – suggesting that a sprig of it should be attached to a sword before going into battle to staunch wounds. Shakespeare also makes reference to it in several of his plays and in the Victorian language of flowers is signifies sympathy. It is said to have the magical power to bring people together and is employed for enchantments of love, prosperity, and success.
Bees And The Balm
Lemon balm’s botanical name is Melissa Officianalis, since Melissa is the Greek word or “honey bee” this is a good indication that there is a strong association between this plant and bees. In fact bees seem to love lemon balm more than any other plant, and they will never abandon their hive if the herb is growing nearby. Beekeepers often rub the inside of their new hives with lemon balm to try and attract a swarm of bees.
Lemon balm has the qualities of a weed and is easily cultivated in any type of soil with any level of shade. It can actually take over your garden as it propagates by plant division early in its season. In fact, in order to control the spread of this plant you might consider cultivating it from seed in flower pots. It has a slow germination time of three to four weeks but this can be sped up if the seeds remain uncovered. Make sure the seeds do not dry out and should either be watered frequently or grown in a container of water such as the bottom of a two liter soda bottle. If you want to propagate the plant across a wider area you can use a layering technique, planting branches of the plant near the mother stalk.
This herb can be cut frequently, taking full cuttings each time and washing and drying the leaves for storage. The entire plant should be cut two inches above the ground during the first few weeks of July, with ensuing harvests taken three inches above the ground each time the plant re-grows to height.