Lemon verbena

by Jekka McVicar

I was very excited this week to notice that one of my favourite herbs, lemon verbena, is starting to produce new leaves.

Lemon verbena plant sprouting new leavesBlustery crisp days and cold nights, north winds, sleet, hail, snow and cold rain. It's amazing with this mixture of weather that plants manage to plod their way into spring.

I was very excited this week to notice that one of my favourite herbs, lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla), is starting to produce new leaves. In previous years I've known the plant to start sprouting new foliage as late as mid-May, by which time one wonders if the plant died in the winter.

Now is the ideal time to cut lemon verbena back hard. Although this seems brutal it is necessary because otherwise the plant would only produce leaves at the branch tips, making it appear straggly and woody. Cutting the plant back hard, to just above a leaf node, encourages lots of lush new growth - exactly what is needed for use in the kitchen.

The leaves have a wonderful lemon sherbet scent and flavour, with a rough texture. For this reason they're best either chopped up very finely or used to make an infusion in oil, vinegar or water. This can then be used to flavour sauces, home-made ice cream and jellies.

Personally I love a tea made from the leaves, which is both refreshing and relaxing. In France this tea is known as a 'tisane de vervain', which can lead to confusion in the UK as we know vervain as Verbena officinalis, not Aloysia triphylla.

To make lemon verbena tea place three leaves in a cup, pouring over water that has been boiled but allowed to sit for a few minutes. Steep for five minutes, then drink. This tea can also be served cold in summer as a refreshing cuppa.

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Gardeners' World Web User 04/04/2008 at 22:22

Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla), just read blog on wonders herb, but have cut mine back in past this time of year, only for the last frost to kill them off - even tho they were in the ground and grown in pots. I now wait until they are in leaf and then cut back. are your lemon verbena under cover or outside when you cut back?

Gardeners' World Web User 26/04/2008 at 20:44

Is it true cats hate this plant, if so I'll buy hundreds

Gardeners' World Web User 29/04/2008 at 17:39

The first leaves on my lemon verbena are just coming out too in a sheltered spot, south facing, and I'm looking forward to brushing past it on my way to the garden and releasing that fabulous smell. It will be a real tonic post op as my gardening this Spring is limited to throwing annual seeds and hoping something will appear when I get out of hospital - a cup of lemon brew will go down a treat then too!

Gardeners' World Web User 13/05/2008 at 18:18

Could you please tell me where I can purchase lemon verbena I live in East Yorkshire. thanks

Gardeners' World Web User 26/05/2008 at 07:29

I'd like to know where you can buy lemon verbena leaves and where I could buy an established plant(s). I live near Southend on Sea.

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