I'm Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh growing herbs is a passion I've had for more than 20 years now. The Backyard Patch is my own herb business started in 1995. I specialize in fresh, amazing, organic blended herbs. Those for cooking, tea and bath -- and they are all home-grown and hand-blended. In the last 20 years I have gained a knowledge of herbs and their flavors that I share here.
It has been hot for three weeks straight now in Illinois.This is unusual for us.About 5 to 7 straight days of extreme 90s (with 100+ heat indexes and humidity) is about all we get in a summer.We have had so many consecutive days of heat with overflowing humidity that it makes you feel like you will melt into a puddle of mush if you stay out for very long.My husband, who has asthma, finds it unbearably difficult to breathe, so we do nothing outdoors together for very long.My garden was dried to a cinder in early July with drought conditions, and then pummeled with heavy rain several times in the last two weeks so that the plants are now struggling with broken stems and muddy leaves or have simply given up all together.
One of the most resilient herbs in the garden have been the mint plants.They have not gone to seed like the basil, cilantro and dill and they are not as covered in soil as the calendula, sage, oregano and marjoram.One of the mint family plants I plant in great abundance is Lemon Balm.It seems unaffected by the heat; although I noticed it was growing very slowly in the dry conditions earlier this month.The splashed soil from the heavy rain did not seem to stick as badly as it did to the poor calendula.
Gardening in the heat has also been a challenge.There is no potable water at my garden spot so I have to bring in everything with me.Did I mention I ride a bicycle to my garden?The rule recently has been.If you run out of water and all that you have left is the bike bottle, it is time to go home.On the way home I then stop to get something frozen from the 7/11.
There is something about a frozen treat when it is hot.At the last two garden walks it was terribly hot and humid so on the drive home we stopped for slushies and Popsicles.When we lived on the farm, Chas and I would get Popsicles from the Jel-Sert outlet store in West Chicago. (They make those colored flavored sugar water in the plastic tubes that you buy and freeze- we loved them!)Now I make a more natural snack using lemon balm.
Since the heat is not dissipating, I thought it was time to make some Popsicles and since Lemon Balm is doing so well in the heat, I will make them with that.
Lemon Balm Popsicles are very cooling and they are also soothing and calming.
To make them you need water, lemon balm (fresh or dried) sweetener, and containers to freeze in.
Simply cut some fresh lemon balm, then pluck off the leaves and loosely pack them into a measuring cup.Give yourself about 2 cups of fresh or 4 tablespoons dried.
Using a large bowl or ½ gallon jar place the plant material in the container and cover the herbs with about 8 cups of boiling water.Let it steep for about 20 minutes (same time for fresh or dried herbs).
Strain the liquid from the herbs and sweeten.For these I like to use honey and about 1 to 2 Tbls. For 8 cups is plenty.I generally use 1 tsp. per cup of water.
Pour the liquid into freezer containers.If you have Popsicle molds that is great.I have not had those in years, so I use small ½ cup Glad containers and for the stick I use a spoon.
Freeze several hours or overnight and enjoy.
Tallgrass Kitchen posted this recipe for Popsicles using hibiscus that I thought was amazing too!
Hibiscus Lemon Balm Ice Pops
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 small bunch lemon balm
3 tsp. dried hibiscus flowers (you could also use BYP Rosy Bite Tea)
1 1/3 cups water
1) Heat 1/2 cup water in small saucepan until almost boiling. Stir in 1/2 cup sugar until dissolved. Toss in lemon balm, and let steep for at least 30 minutes. Strain syrup to remove lemon balm.
2) Boil 1 1/3 cups water. Steep hibiscus tied in a coffee filter or placed in a tea infuser for at least 30 minutes. Remove infuser.
3) Combine hibiscus tea and simple syrup. Pour into ice pop molds and freeze until solid.