This week I tilled up last year's leek bed to make room for parsnips and noticed the lime balm (Melissa officianalis 'Lime') was peeking up through the leaves. A visitor to the garden, years ago, brought this lime flavored lemon balm. It stays primarily in that same bed, which is 4 ft. x 6 ft. The other end has a clump of Blue Eye Spring mint, which is agreeable to having that small space. Of course every year I have to pull out the mint roots or it would take over the whole bed. The leeks didn't mind, nor the garlic the year before, nor the potatoes before that.
Want to know more about lemon balm? Check this article written by Jeanine Davis, the Extension Hort Specialist at North Carolina Extension Svc. I met Jeanine some years ago when I was a speaker at the NC Herb Assoc, a great organization of herb growers.
So just what's lemon balm, or in this case, lime balm good for? Pie, cake, cookies, tea, just to name a few uses, and it's a very beneficial medicinal plant, too. Owners of orchards, back in previous centuries planted lemon balm between the fruit trees to attract bees, and as you know, bees are required to pollinate the trees. Lemon balm, it seems, is a favorite plant for bees' nectar collection. Of course if you're growing lemon balm for your own use, it's best to keep it pruned instead of letting it bloom and go to seed. Once the plant starts blooming, the flavor of the leaves turn from "Ohhh, that's lemony!" to, "Blescch, that tastes like soap, why would anyone eat that?" Just a few weeks makes a big difference in flavors. Just like basil (or most herbs), if you leave lemon balm, or lime balm alone and don't give it regular pruning and use only the old leaves, you will not like the plant one bit. If you'd like my recipe for Lemon Balm Cake, using either lemon balm or lime balm, here's the link: Jim Long's Recipes: Lemon Balm-Blueberry Cake and if you'd like to find lemon or lime balm to grow, you can find it by going to my website, click on "Looking for Plants?" button and then go to the Richters Herbs link. There are also more links to plant sellers we recommend highly there, as well.
Our long time friend, Nellie Neal, who has a great garden radio talk show, the GardenMama, in Jackson, MS just added Horticultural Projects Manager at Bass Pecan Company to her impressive resume. I have no idea what a Hort. Projects Manager does, but if it has to do with plants, Nellie knows how. At age 7 she planted eggplant seed and when the plants were big enough to transplant, Nellie sold the plants to her neighbors. In college at Louisiana State Univ. while other students were doing wild and crazy things, Nellie was growing 90 tomato plants in her front yard. We were very happy to have her visit us here last summer. And it was fun to be on her radio show. She helps gardeners find answers to their questions about growing organically, in Zones 8, 9 & 10 and is The gardening guru of the South.
One of our customers has a camel dairy business in California and sent a photo of one of their camels, Goldie, and her new baby, Aziz. The Oasis Camel Dairy has 18 camels, which they milk and use to make a very rich, wonderful herbal soap. The husband and wife team of Gil Riegler and Nancy Kobert have been raising camels at the farm for over 20 years and use them in therapeutic therapy programs for the physically challenged. Camels are sensitive, patient and highly intelligent and seem to thrive on their arid California farm. They offer lavender, Rosemary Mint, Gold-Frankincense-and-Myrrh, Orange Blossom and Milk and Honey soaps.
The garden is coming along, beds are being cleaned and every day something new blooms. Yeah spring!