Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mini Herb of the Week - Lemon Verbena

One of the herbs many people know is my absolute favorite (just edging out Lemon Thyme) is Lemon Verbena.  Now I have posted about Lemon Verbena before:
   Herb of the Week
   Special Recipes

I also noticed in looking back that I like to create sorbet with Lemon verbena, there were several posts in it, but this was the easiest.

But since Lemon Verbena is one of the herbs we will be sharing at the Men's Garden Club plant sale (May 8 & 9, 2015,) I thought I would share a bit more about this wonderful plant.

This time of year I give my Lemon Verbena a hard pruning.  You want to do that when it starts to sprout leaves after winter dormancy. Lemon verbena grows from the woody stems rather than the soft growth, so if you clip the wood this will stimulate the herb to sprout.  Notice that this plant is small.  I bought it at the end of last year and never repotted it.  I have others that are larger, but look about the same (sticks with little leaves.)

In its native habitat of Central and South America it grows 7 to 10 feet tall, but here in the northern states we have to settle for pots.  This year I am thinking of planting a pot in the vegetable plot to give it more sun and see if it grows larger than it does in a season on the patio. Lemon Verbena is deciduous, so the leaves drop in the fall when the days shorten, this usually happens about a week after I bring it indoors for winter.  But water it and place it in a sunny window in January and it will sprout again!  Lemon Verbena does not need much to grow except sun and good drainage.  It likes to dry out between waterings, but no so much that you stress the plant (you know you did that when the edges of the leaves turn brown or yellow.)

The reason I fell in love with this plant is the distinctive lemon scent.  It is kin to an actual lemon and the dried leaves hold that scent for years after harvesting. As part of the Plant Sale I will be sharing my herb recipes and growing tips.  Lemon Verbena is a great herb to make bath items as well as sweets, scones and chicken dishes.  It is also great in potpourri.

Here are a few recipes to get you thinking about growing this unusual but wonderful lemon scented and favored herb in your garden or on your patio this season!

Lemon Verbena Potpourri

Dried peel of 1 lemon
2 cups dried lemon verbena leaves
1 cup dried chamomile flowers
6 inches of cinnamon stick
1 cup dried calendula petals
1 tsp. orris root (optional)
2 to 3 drops essential oil of lemon verbena

To dry lemon peel, scrape it off the fruit with a vegetable peeler, spread it on paper towel and put it in a warm place for about 2 weeks, until crisp.

Mix the ingredients together, seal in a jar and put in a warm place for 2-3 weeks, shaking occasionally.  Put in a bowl to scent the room covering when not in use to retail the scent or in a drawstring bag to hang in a wardrobe.

Lemon verbena essential oil will give the potpourri a stronger fragrance.  It is also useful for adding zest to the mixture at a later date.  As it will lose strength when exposed to light and air.

Raspberry lemon verbena butter

1/2 pound unsalted butter
4 ounces fresh or frozen raspberries (not in syrup)
1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
1 small handful young, tender lemon verbena leaves

Thaw the raspberries if frozen, and pour off any excess liquid. With all ingredients at room temperature, blend butter, sugar, and raspberries until smooth. This may take a while (about three minutes in my food processor), and you may think it’s never going to emulsify, but it will if you persist. Strip out any large veins in the lemon ver­bena leaves, then add the leaves (chopped if you’re mixing by hand) and blend until the texture is pleasing.  You will love this as a topping on muffins, waffles and pancakes.

This recipe is so good that I did not change it one bit from how it was originally posted on the blog of my friend Nancy - The Lemon Verbena Lady, she obtained it from the Three Rivers Cookbook

Chicken Rice Divan

2 10-oz. pkgs. frozen broccoli spears
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
6 large slices cooked chicken or 2 cups cubed chicken
salt & pepper
1 cup cooked rice

White Sauce:

2 tbsp. butter or margarine
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup dairy sour cream

Cook broccoli according to directions; drain. Arrange in 11-1/2" by 7-1/2" by 1-1/2" baking dish. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Top with chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon on cooked rice. Prepare white sauce: Melt butter, blend in flour, add milk all at once. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and bubbles. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice; gently fold in sour cream, and pour over chicken. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.

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