This simple lemon balm recipe combines fresh lemon balm leaves, maple syrup, and lemons for a refreshing summer beverage.
It’s shaping up to be a hot summer, and at times like these, I am desperate for something cold and refreshing.
I don’t usually have much in the way of sweet drinks like soda or juice hanging around. Water is a good option, of course, yet I don't find it energizing in a way that motivates me to peel myself out of a chair and be productive as sweat drips down my back. Also, have I ever mentioned how we don’t have air conditioning?
Luckily, in our garden, we have various herbs and plants that can be used to make teas and other beverages. Mint is one, and we sure have plenty of it. Though we also have an increasing amount of chamomile, it just grows like a weed at this point. I gave pineapple sage a try this summer, though it's slow-growing at the moment. This year, I’m determined to do more with the lemon balm that continues to flourish alongside our shed, despite the complete lack of attention I give it. Maybe that's the secret?
what is lemon balm?
Lemon balm is a perennial herb that’s part of the mint family. Although we’ve grown it for a few years, it still surprises me. As the name implies, the green leafy plant smells and tastes like real lemons, despite looking nothing like citrus. All you have to do is wave your hand through the plant to release the appealing scent.
what is lemon balm good for?
Lemon balm has many beneficial medicinal qualities. Or so they say. It’s believed to help reduce anxiety, improve sleep and promote a good mood. Does it work? No idea. I use it for its flavor.
I use lemon balm wherever I want to impart a hint of lemon, regardless of what a recipe might specify. However, don't expect it to be a perfect substitute for lemon juice or zest in quite the same way. Although it has a strong aroma, it's much more subtle in flavor. It also adds a bit of earthiness, as herbs tend to do.
are lemon balm and lemon verbena the same?
If you’re wondering the difference between lemon balm and lemon verbena, when it comes to culinary usage, there isn’t much. You can use them interchangeably. Verbena is often used in sweet dishes, while lemon balm is found more in savory. Verbena is also considered to have a stronger flavor, while balm's is zestier. Learn more about lemon verbena.
If you don’t have a plant of your own, I see both balm and verbena popping up more frequently in the herb section of produce departments. You can also check with local herb growers to see when or if they may have plants for sale. Or, if you have a friend with a plant, try taking a cutting to replant in a pot or your yard.
What better way to put lemon balm to use than in what we can all use on a hot summer day – a glass of lemonade? To make this lemon balm lemonade recipe you'll need:
- lemon balm
- maple syrup
There's not much involved in making this lemonade. Start by muddling the leaves, then steeping them in hot water with maple syrup, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Then you strain out the leaves and combine the lemon mixture with cold water. All you have to do from there is add ice, and enjoy!
The result is an excellent depth of lemon flavor that’s not too sour. And by sweetening it with a modest amount of maple syrup, this is much more of a pleasantly balanced beverage than any lemonade you can buy in stores.
With this lemonade, you have options.
- Use carbonated water. You could use carbonated water instead of regular water to make a fizzy lemonade.
- Add gin. And you could add in a shot of gin to make a lemonade cocktail.
- Adjust the sweetness. As written, this isn’t a super strong or sweet lemonade if that’s what you’re used to drinking. So start here and adjust to your liking. It's easy to add in more maple syrup if needed.
- Mint lemonade. Add in other herbs with the lemon balm, such as mint, to make an even more unique beverage. Some other herb ideas: rosemary, lavender, chamomile, thyme, lime balm, and basil.
Love lemon? Then check out my Lemon Rosemary Olive Oil Cake, which would also go great with a glass of lemonade. Want to try something else with flavors from the garden? Go for some Lilac Tea or Chamomile Shortbread Cookies.