A happy, sunny, lemon herb
By Anna Randall
Considered the strongest lemon-scented herb, Sweet Valley Lemon Verbena is a must have in your culinary herb garden.
Its scent and essential oil properties are almost intoxicating. It smells so fresh and is delightful used in tea and summer drinks or served with fish or chicken.
Native to Argentina and Chile, it is a shrub that is commercially cultivated for its medical properties as well as for perfumes and cleaners. Its leaves will hold their fragrance even years after being dried which makes it wonderful for so many uses.
A little more temperamental than some herbs, lemon verbena needs more care but overall is an easy plant to grow. It can be grown outside but prefers warmth and is an easy plant to grow inside as well.
How to Grow Lemon Verbena Indoors
Growing what can become a very large shrub indoors does present challenges, but it is possible to make your lemon verbena thrive in an indoor container:
Choose a container. Start with a pot or other container that is about one and a half times as wide as the root ball of the plant you’ve selected and make sure the container has drainage holes.
Soil and drainage. Good soil and drainage are important for growing lemon verbena. You can add pebbles or other drainage material to the bottom of the container and then use a rich organic soil that is loosely packed. Adding worm castings will give additional nutrients to your soil so fertilizing will not be necessary.
Sunny spot. Lemon verbena prefers full sun, so find a sunny spot for your container. Consider keeping it outside for the warmer months of the year.
Pruning. A key to growing verbena in a container is trimming it regularly to maintain a reasonable size. Prune for size and shape. You can also trim it back in the fall.
Water and fertilizer. Lemon verbena should be watered regularly. You never want the soil to fully dry out, but you don’t want soggy roots either, which is why drainage is so important. You can add a little more worm castings or organic fertilizers every few months.
Lemon verbena plants will lose their leaves in the winter, so don’t be alarmed when your plant goes bald. This is normal, especially when keeping verbena inside. Continue to water it about once a week and the leaves will return in the spring.
With an indoor lemon verbena, you can enjoy the fragrance and flavor of this delightful shrubby herb throughout the year. Dry or freeze leaves for winter use.
How to Use
Use lemon verbena in recipes in place of lemon zest. Leaves are tough and leathery, so you will want to mince them very fine. It is sometimes easier to use a whole leaf to season a dish and remove it before serving.
- You can Steep lemon verbena in hot water to brew tea or in milk to create a flavored base for ice cream, sorbet, or pudding.
- Bury a few leaves in sugar in a sealed container; use this sugar to flavor cookies and dough.
- Use leaves to flavor vinegar, salad dressing, or marinades.
- Add dried, crumbled leaves to rice just before serving or blend into quick bread batters.
- Use the leaves and stems to flavor an icing for tea breads or cakes.
Make a hot tea – bruise or cut up 1/4 cup leaves and add 1 cup hot water, steep and enjoy. Consider adding Sweet Valley mint for a real treat.
Make a Lemon Verbena Iced Tea – Here’s the recipe for Lemon Verbena Iced Tea.
Make a Lemon Verbena Vinaigrette – Here’s the recipe for Lemon Verbena Vinaigrette.
Make Lemon Verbena infused olive oil – Use about 1 cup of Verbena, ½ cup grapeseed oil, pinch of salt. Blend in a food processor about 2 minutes, then strain pressing out as much oil as you can. Then season with salt. Will last up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
Try Lemon Verbena infused Vinegar – You can easily do this with a 6-inch-long spiral strip of lemon peel, 3 sprigs of Verbena and white wine vinegar. Put all ingredients into a bottle making sure the vinegar covers the herbs completely. Put in a dark place and store from 1 week to 4 months.