I have been growing lemon verbena for about 5 years. I found a tiny, busted up looking plant at the 99 Cents store, mixed in with a bunch of oregano. It was the only lemon verbena plant they had, and frankly, I didn’t think it would survive. One of its two leaves fell off while I was standing in line to check out, and the lady who was in front of me asked if she could have that leaf to try to grow it, so I gave it to her. I figured I would have enough of a challenge trying to nurse the actual plant back to health, and didn’t think I’d be able to grow a plant from just a leaf anyway. I often wonder if that lady was able to get the leaf to grow, because my beat-up looking little lemon verbena plant has grown like crazy.
I love this plant so much. Well, I love ALL my plants, to the point where I may be turning into a crazy Plant Lady (like a Cat Lady, but greener). But this plant is among my favorites. The smell and taste are just delightful: lemony and slightly floral, but without any acidity.
We most frequently use it in green tea, and just a few leaves are needed to create the magic. I have also added a few tablespoons of chopped lemon verbena to sugar cookie batter, and that was a nice treat. I have even used the dried branches as skewers to give meat a kick (I do this with rosemary too sometimes. Depending on the meat and the toughness of the dried branch, you may need to poke holes with a metal skewer first, then thread the herbs in.)
I found this little tidbit on ChowHound that I would LOVE to try:
The late Nicholas Jongleux served roasted lobster with a savoury, non-creamy lemon verbena sauce, a haunting combination. My guess as to how he made the sauce: fresh leaves were cooked or steeped in white wine, fish stock and maybe a dash of apple or pear juice; the resulting liquor was then reduced and strained; and the sauce was finally mounted with a bit of butter.
Here are a few more ideas for using lemon verbena:
My favorite lemon verbena tea recipe:
- Approximately 5 dried hibiscus flowers. Hibiscus is tangy, so you may want to add more or less depending on your tastes. I usually get them pretty cheaply in Chinatown, or sometimes in supermarkets that sell spice brands like Tampico.
- Lemon verbena to taste, fresh or dried. If fresh, use more. I use approximately 10 large leaves, torn or crushed.
- Dried stevia leaves to taste. I use approximately 1/4 cup, crushed (again, I get this in Chinatown pretty cheaply.)
- Add hibiscus buds, lemon verbena, and stevia to French press or tea infuser.
- Add very hot water, stir, and cover.
- Let steep for about 5 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy. It is also great iced.