Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bee Balm (New Recipes) - Herb of the Week

Although I did an herb of the week on Bee Balm back in 2012, I find that this year, It has been so very attractive I cannot resist giving more information about this attractive perennial.

So Herb of the Week is Bee Balm  genus Monarda 

Bee Balm is a true Native American herb named Monarda by the Spanish explorer who discovered it in the new world in 1571. Its meaning in the Language of Flowers is Compassion. sympathy, consolation.

Known as Oswego Tea to some, this is the plant that Native Americans used to treat colds and to relax. This tea was used by the rebellious Boston patriots during the tea boycott. It is also known as Bergamot. This is a reference to its citrus-like scent which resembles the small, bitter Italian bergamot citrus orange called Orange Bergamot.  When you buy essential oil of Bergamot you are purchasing the oil of bergamot orange. This is the flavor used to give Earl Grey tea its distinctive flavor. This fragrance is very similar to the Bee Balm, but comes from a different plant.

To Grow

Bee Balm is naturalized throughout the United States. It is a hardy perennial in the mint family and grows to two to three feet tall. Its leaves grow in pairs that are oval and pointed on a four sided stem. Flowers appear in zone 5 in late June through August- September. lts tubular flowers bloom from a large round head. Both leaves and flowers have a strong citrus mint scent.
A rich purple Bee balm from the Rotary Garden in Janesville, WI

Bee Balm flowers come in colors from red to pink to purple to while. It’s roots are dense and shallow. It can easily be propagated from runners. Bee Balm which is in the mint family (you know by the square stem) can be invasive, but growth is usually checked by our cold winters.  This winter was snowy so I think the extra moisture resulted in the vivid colors and proliferation of flowers we see this year.

Bright Pink Bee Balm at the Morton Arboretum
Bee Blam flowers come in colors from red to pink to purple to white. The roots are dense and shallow. It can easily be propagated from runners. Bees and hummingbirds love the colorful tubular flowers.
The plant tolerates shade, but prefers full sun. Dry soil stunts plant growth since the roots are so near the surface. You want to plant Bee Balm somewhere where it is not disturbed by foot traffic or cultivation as the shallow roots can be damaged.  It responds well to being mulched especially in warmer climates.  Weeding must only be done by hand. Bee Balm often gets powdery mildew towards late August. The best treatment is to cut the stems to the ground and discard the diseased foliage. Do not put these diseased clippings in your compost pile.

To Use

Bee Balm flower petals are a good addition to tea, desserts and potpourri. Petals can be harvested often by picking only the flower petals and leaving the round heads attached. Picking just the petals in this way will encourage re-blooming for weeks. Dry the petals on a tray for about a week. When thoroughly dry, store them in an airtight jar until needed.

Bee Balm flower petals are edible flowers and add a citrus flavor to any dish including salad, jelly, bread, tea and honey. The fresh petals are delicious in lemonade or iced tea. Bee Balm petals are attractive and delicious with all fruits. Dried petals retain their flavor and can be used throughout the year.

Wild bee balm of light purple

Dragonfly Cheese
1  8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (4 tablespoons) margarine or butter, softened
1 Tablespoons fresh monarda petals, chopped
1 Tablespoon dried dill

Mix cheese and butter together with edible flowers and dill. Mix well. Add one tablespoon of mayonnaise if you would like the mix more spreadable. Chill overnight and serve with cocktail rye, crackers or vegetable sticks.

Bumble Bee Punch
1 quart of brewed Backyard Patch Earl Grey Tea with Lavender or Lemon Bergamot Tea
1/2 cup sugar
1 quart lemonade

Sweeten tea with sugar and stir until dissolved. Add lemonade to sweetened tea and mix in a large punch bowl. Add ice ring made with juice or tea and decorated with mint and edible flowers. Float lemon slices in punch bowl. Sprinkle with fresh monarda petals.

Herbal Headache Soother Tea
equal parts: 
     Bee balm  (leaves and flowers)

Blend ingredients together and store in a jar with tight fitting lid.  Use 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup of hot water (more if you make it iced).  Allow to steep 7 to 10 minutes before drinking.

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