How to use Lemon Balm (3 recipes!)

Lemon balm is one of the easiest herbs to grow in the garden, and that's a good thing because it is super useful! I have been using lemon balm as tea for many years now and just love the light lemony flavor. It's also used in many lip balm recipes because it is great for fighting cold sores. Today I want to talk about how to use the herb lemon balm.

Large medicinal lemon balm plant

I have been growing lemon balm for about 11 years now. I've had the same plant the whole time, although now it's more like 3 big plants and a dozen or so small ones! Luckily I use lemon balm in both both foods and medicine, because I certainly have enough of it. I tried to get ahead of it this year by completely harvesting the 2 plants that planted themselves in spring, but it wasn't very effective.

I mean I certainly harvested and dried a lot of lemon balm! I used this method to dry it all in my truck, which is perfect if you're harvesting mass 2, two foot high plants! This plant grows fairly quickly though, especially as summer hits. Even though I cut them down to the ground, they were full size again in just a few months!

What is Lemon Balm?

Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis) is a herbaceous upright perennial that will grow for many years with very little care. It isn't picky about it's soil or watering conditions. It also has a tendency to spread and take over the garden as I discussed in 9 Herbs that want to take over your garden. The main reason it's so good at taking over is the sheer volume of seeds each plant produces.

If you allow it to go to seed, it will spread. There's literally no way you will harvest all the seeds before some fall to the ground. I try to yank the tiny plants in spring, but they just keep sprouting! lol What I should do is just plant my lemon balm in the woods instead of in my garden and just let it spread as much as it wants! I wonder if deer would eat lemon balm?

Lemon balm, basil and catnip are all from the family Lamiaceae (mint family). Members of the mint family and all are pretty well known for their medicinal qualities and this one is no exception.

Lemon Balm is a natural anti-inflammatory, has antiviral properties and is very high in antioxidants. It can be used to soothe the stomach, ease anxiety and stress, reduce the length and severity of a cold sore outbreak and even help with insomnia.

It's one of the ingredients in my Herbal Sleep Tea recipe.

November gardening

November is a really awkward time for gardeners. It's not cold enough that you can't do anything, but the snow is coming soon and therefore you really can't do anything. However those warm days really get to you and make you want to get out there and spend some time in the garden, am I right?

Luckily there are a few garden tasks you can do and if you happen to live in a mild climate there are a few things you can actually plant. For instance, I've grown kale all the way up till mid January before even though we get snow. I've also overwintered carrots and picked them in March when the ground thawed.

Of course if you want to try to garden under snow you're going to have to cover everything. Whether you build a cold frame, buy a pre-made greenhouse or just toss some plastic over your plants ... you're going to have to protect them somehow.

You probably already did a lot of cleaning up when you started preparing your garden for winter. If you're like us the first real freeze killed most everything off anyway, so I cleaned that up right after. 

How to make your own vanilla extract

Do you know what is in vanilla flavoring? That's a question going around social media right now and the answer is pretty gross. Vanilla flavoring is different than vanilla extract though, and the extract is far better for cooking and baking! Luckily there is an easy way to make your own vanilla extract and it only uses 2 ingredients. 

Homemade vanilla extract in glass bottle

This is super simple to make, and it is a perfect gift for the foodie or baker in your life! If you get started now it'll be ready in time for the holidays.

Now this isn't going to be the cheapest recipe you make! Vanilla beans are not cheap which is why if you go in the store you will see that natural or pure extract is vastly different than vanilla flavoring in price. Different by about $8 for a small bottle, or more. 

You can find vanilla flavorings in the dollar stores. They taste fine so I'm not trying to talk you away from buying them if that's in your price range. However imitation vanilla flavoring is made with a secretion from a beavers anal glands. Yeah, that's as gross as it sounds!

How to increase humidity for houseplants (without a humidifier)

Humidity is very important for indoor plants. Many house plants are tropical plants and naturally grow in a warm, humid environment. While the air temperature inside our homes may be perfect for them, sometimes the air is way too dry for their liking. This is a bigger problem in winter when the heating system is pumping in dry air constantly! To make your plants happy you'll want to add moisture to the air. A humidity tray is the perfect answer!

Humidity tray for plants

I know a lot of people run humidifiers inside their houses in winter, and that's a great option too. However, not everybody has particularly dry air, so a humidifier might be overkill. Plants can grab moisture out of the air so placing the source right next to them is all that's really needed. Plus there are more decorative ways to add moisture!

How to grow a bay leaf tree

The very first tree I decided to grow inside my house was a bay laurel tree (Laurus nobilis). Unlike most other herbs, the bay leaf is actually an evergreen shrub. I looked for this little plant for several years before finally finding one at a local plant nursery. Since then I have been obsessed with it! 

It is now just under 2 feet tall, it lives in a medium sized pot, it spends its summers outside and its winters indoors.

Bay laurel plant growing in a pot indoors

The bay laurel tree is an aromatic evergreen tree with smooth leaves in the flowering plant family Lauraceae. It is a flowering tree, with pairs of yellow-green flowers blooming bedside each leaf. It blooms in spring.

Unfortunately the bay laurel is dioecious, meaning male and female flowers form on separate plants. So sadly, my single plant will never produce viable seed. Since the bay Laurel is native to the Mediterranean region it cannot tolerate our winters outside and therefore must be protected from the cold in winter. 

I call it a 'small' tree but it can actually reach a height of up to 59 feet tall! Obviously it can't be allowed to get that big inside my house! With proper pruning I shouldn't have to worry about it bursting through my ceilings anytime soon though. When grown in a pot, it is a fairly slow growing tree.