Herb of the Week – Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm (also known as Melissa)

Lemon Balm is a really great, really under-appreciated herb which has great culinary and medicinal uses.  This herb is native to Southern Europe and Northern Africa and has been used for over 2000 years.

Medicinal Uses

A popular use of the herb is Melissa Tea.  The tea is thought to cure headaches, insomnia, cold and flu, lower blood pressure and even help with indigestion.  Not only is Melissa Tea helpful for many ailments but it is also a refreshing beverage.

A Lemon Balm Tincture is highly concentrated and keeps for a long time.  The tincture can be added to drinks, lotions, and salves and can help with the ailments listed above and is also thought to help lower stress.  The tincture can be sparingly applied directly into the mouth to help ease the pain of a tooth ache.

Lemon Balm leaves are also said to be an effective mosquito repellant!  Rub the leaves on exposed skin to ward of the little blood suckers!

Culinary Uses

Lemon Balm is great when added to cakes and cookies adding a slightly tart, delicate lemon flavor to the dish.  The leaves can be chopped and added into any batter or steeped in the required liquid before preparation.  It can also be added to homemade sorbets and ice creams.

Lemon balm is wonderful in savory dishes and pairs well with poultry, pork and fish.  It is great when added to sauces, marinades or even stuffing.  Chopped leaves can be added directly into your favorite dish.

Storage

Fresh leaves can be stored in a plastic bag for several days in the fridge.  Leaves can also be frozen.  Leaves can be spread out to dry in a dark airy place and can then be stored in airtight containers for several months.  Dried leaves do lose some of their flavor.

Please remember that when using herbs for medicinal properties you should always consult your doctor first.  No medicinal qualities listed above have been proven and are only suggestions for use and should not be used in place of visiting with your physician.

Recipes – Below you will find several recipes for Lemon Balm.  For printable recipe cards, click the titles of each recipe or click the Recipe Cards Tab at the top of the page.

Melissa (Lemon Balm) Tea

Fresh Lemon Balm Leaves or dried Lemon Balm Leaves
Water
Sugar, honey or other sweetener

Hot Tea – Use 2 Tbs. of fresh chopped leaves or 1 tbs. dried leaves per cup of boiling water.  Place the leaves in a mesh tea ball and pour boiling water over it.  Allow the leaves to steep for about 5 minutes or until desired taste is achieved.  Add sugar to taste and enjoy hot.

Iced Tea – Prepare tea as above. Place tea into a pitcher and store in the refrigerator.  Drink within 2 days.

Sun Tea – In a large 2 quart jar add approximately ½ cup (more or less to taste) of torn fresh lemon balm leaves.  Cover leaves with cool water and seal the jar.  Place in a sunny location for a few hours.  Strain out the leaves, add ice and sugar as desired and enjoy.

Note- Mint, chamomile and black tea leaves make a great addition to any of the methods above.

Lemon Balm Tincture

¼ cup Dried Lemon Balm leaves                    Sterile Glass Jar
½ cup Vodka                                                           Dark Glass Jar with dropper
½ cup water

Lemon Balm Tincture is best made with DRIED Lemon Balm Leaves.

Chop ¼ cup of dried lemon balm leaves in a food processor or clean coffee grinder.  Place the chopped leaves into a sterile glass jar.  Cover the herbs with the vodka and water.  Tightly seal the jar.

Allow the jar to remain covered in a cool dark place for two weeks.  Vigorously shake the jar daily to help with the infusion of the herbs.  After two weeks, strain out the herbs and store the liquid in a dark glass jar with a dropper.  Be sure to label your jar.

Adults take 4-6 ml of the tincture daily.  Remember to consult your physician when using for medicinal purposes.

 

Searcy Farmers Market Opening

Saturday was the opening day of the 2010 Searcy Farmers Market.  First of all I would like to thank EVERYONE who came by and purchased eggs from me, visited with me and just came to check out the market.  It was a very successful day for everyone.  It is still early in the season but each week you will find more and more in season produce.  We are also expecting 6-8 more vendors and several more might be signing up! It will only get better as the season goes on!

I will not be at the market on the 24th but I will be back on the 1st of May with  Eggs, Lemon Balm and possibly some Dill and Basil.  I will also be doing Kids Crafts all day.

Printable Recipe Cards

Click on each of the recipes below for a free printable 4×6 recipe card.  Print them on cardstock and add them to your recipe file.    To print two cards per page, select and print your first card.  Turn your paper and return it to your printer.  Print the second card on the other half of the page. Enjoy!

Asparagus and Caramelized Onion Frittata

Melissa (Lemon Balm) Tea

Lemon Balm Tincture

Garlic and Dill Dressing

Grilled Lemon-Dill Shrimp

Cheddar Dill Biscuits

Herbed Potato Salad

Basil Lime Sorbet

Basil and Lemon Capellini

Strawberry Balsamic Basil Spritzer

Fritatta…failure???

The winner of the last contest suggested Frittata as a great weeknight dinner option.  Not only had the winner suggested this but another contest entrant did as well.  I had never had a frittata before but it had been described to me as a cross between an omelet and a quiche.  I LOVE quiche, I HATE omelets so I was a little leery.  This is likely the reason why I have avoided trying a frittata for so long.

Since I have always said I was willing to try new foods at least once before writing them off I gave the Frittata a go.  I looked up some recipes and quickly realized that making a frittata is more of a method than a recipe.  It is kind of “anything goes” with a few standard ingredients like eggs and cheese. It is the kind of recipe that is great for using up random meat and veggies that are leftover in your fridge.  I decided to use asparagus, leeks and bacon.

Asparagus and Caramelized Leek Frittata

1 bunch Asparagus, chopped
2 leeks, sliced thin
6 slices of bacon
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
8 whole eggs
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 cup Gouda cheese, shredded

Preheat the broiler.  In an oven safe pan cook bacon until crispy. Remove from pan and remove any excess grease reserving a little for cooking the leeks.  Add the sliced leeks to the pan and cook until soft and caramelized.  Add in the chopped asparagus and cook about 5 more minutes until the asparagus is tender.  Add the bacon back in.

In a bowl, whisk eggs and then add salt, pepper, paprika, thyme and 3/4 of the cheese.  Stir to combine.  Pour into the skillet and stir to combine the egg mixture with the veggie mixture.  Cook for 2-3 minutes to allow the egg to set on the bottom.  Sprinkle with cheese and place under the broiler.  Cook 3-5 minutes more until the eggs are cooked and the cheese has melted.

Remove from the oven, slice and serve.

So there you have it. Easy and FAST!  It took less than 15 minutes from start to finish.  I served it with some extra slices of bacon and some toast.

The verdict? Frittata is NOT for me! I wanted to like it but I just didn’t.  Even with all of the  cheese it was too much like an omelet.  I just was not a fan.  However, I do think this would be a great weeknight supper for someone who is a fan of omelets.  That someone just isn’t me!

Onion-skin Dyed Eggs

I read about Onion -skin dyed eggs over at the Proactive Bridesmaid and was amazed!  I’ve seen these somewhere before and thought that they were cool but never gave them much thought beyond that.  Well now that I have my own chickens and enough eggs to warrant their own refrigerator, I am constantly looking at new ways to use eggs.  Onion-skin dyed eggs are incredibly EASY and FUN and look AMAZING when they are done!

Here is what you will need:

Eggs – I used brown but white will work too.
Onion-skins – I used red and white/yellow onion skins
Flowers, grass, leaves etc. – I used violets, dandelions, grass, moss & leaves
A Knee-high
A pot
Water
A stove

Go outside and collect a bunch of leaves, flowers, grass, etc.  Grab a piece of onion skin in your hand.  Lay an egg and an assortment of things from you “nature mixture” onto the skin.  Carefully roll the egg up as tightly as possible into the skin, adding more pieces as necessary.  Carefully place the egg into the toe of a knee-high and tie it tightly.  Repeat with another egg and slide it into the knee-high above the knot and tie it closed.  Repeat.  I was able to fit six eggs per knee-high, 1-dozen per pair.  Place the eggs into a pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil.  Turn off heat, cover and let sit for 17 minutes.  Carefully pour out the hot water and refill the pot with cold water and allow the eggs to cool.  Remove the eggs and use scissors to cut off the knee-highs.  You will be amazed at the results.  The different flowers, grasses and skins you use will result in a variety of colors and patterns!  ENJOY!

Garden Journal 4-2

WOW! I can not believe it has been nearly a MONTH since my last garden journal post.

A lot has been happening here!  As I mentioned in my post about starting a garden last year I had a progressive plan to add more raised beds.  Last year I started with four 4×4 beds.  These were great and we were able to get a ton of tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, cucumbers, squash and a variety of herbs.  I really enjoyed it and the raised beds are so easy to take care of.

This year I am adding 7 additional beds to my four existing ones.  I am adding two more of the 4×4 beds and five 2×10 beds.  So far I have managed to get the beds all built and layed out.  I am in the process of getting weed fabric and dirt put in and will be building a new fence around the whole thing to help keep out the chickens.  I usually wait to plant my main crops until after Easter so things should be going in the ground soon!  I do however have a few perennial herbs coming up!

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