When Life Gives You Lemon Balm -- Make Lemonade!

Make lemonade when life gives you too much lemon balm!

Last summer my lemon balm secretly went to seed and now I have a "situation."

Since I got my bees last year I've been torn between letting the herbs bloom and yet not letting them bloom. The bees can gather pollen and nectar from the flowers, but the time to harvest herbs is before they flower, so I've always harvested them all summer long, cutting them back so they won't flower and go to seed.

Well, I blew it last year.

The lemon balm - and the catnip too - went to seed in secret and this year I have lemon balm and catnip growing everywhere. Everywhere. Under the birdbath, along the front of the house, in the grass, and under the wooden steps where my herbs live in pots. Some of the catnip plants are over three feet tall, with the lemon balm not far behind.

Make lemon balm lemonade when you have an excess of lemon balm. Here are three recipes to try.

But when life gives you an excess of lemon balm, the obvious thing to do with it is make lemon-balm-ade, right? I decided I would finally try making some lemon balm lemonade. I procrastinated a bit though, and then one day I realized that the plants are ready to flower. If I was going to harvest lots of lemon balm, I'd better get busy and do it.

So in the morning, after the dew had dried off and before the sun was hot and wilted the plants, I took a bowl and my clippers outside and started cutting the lemon balm back down to size, and quickly realized that the bowl was woefully inadequate for the job. I trimmed about a quarter of the wild plants and brought this huge bundle into the kitchen.

Have you ever used lemon balm to make lemonade?

I washed the leaves and patted them dry, because...

Wash lemon balm before beginning to make lemonade.

And I found a couple of tiny lemon-colored flowers on one of the stems. No wonder it got away from me last year, the flowers are really tiny and inconspicuous. It will happen again this year too; I've already accepted that fact. If I let them flower for the bees there will be seeds. At least it smells good when we mow the grass.

Three recipes for lemon balm lemonade, which will you try first?

Anyway, back to the lemonade. I've found three different ways to make lemon balm lemonade and instead of picking one, I thought I'd try all three, because as you can see I have plenty of lemon balm to experiment with.

Lemon Balm Lemonade #1

This recipe uses lemon balm and no lemons. I really wanted to see if this would work, since lemons are a bit pricey at the store. Gone are the days when we lived in southern California and had a lemon tree in the yard, and I hoped I could substitute lemon balm for lemons. I used this recipe..

Lemon balm steeping in hot water to make lemonade syrup.

The basic directions:
Boil 4 cups of water, add several handfuls of washed and chopped lemon balm leaves. Steep for 15-20 minutes. (By the way, always cover a lemon balm infusion; the volatile oils that carry that lovely fragrance and taste will disappear in the steam if you don't.) Strain out the leaves and add 1/2 cup honey or sugar (adjust amount to your taste).

Lemon Balm Lemonade #2

This recipe is from Genius Kitchen.

You need four lemons for this beverage. Instead of peeling the rind from the lemons as the recipe suggested, I used a fine grater and made a bowlful of lemon zest. I followed the rest of the recipe as written. Basically, you make a syrup with the lemon juice, lemon zest, lemon balm and sugar, then add water and ice for a quart of lemonade. You can substitute honey for the sugar in equal quantity.

Lemon Balm Soda #3

This one is touted as "soda" and suggests that drinking it is better than reaching for a can of sugary soda, but you are making a syrup that you add to club soda or ginger ale. Unless you use a natural ginger ale like the one I make (you can find the recipe for natural ginger ale here), I think you're just adding syrup to a sugary soda that contains chemicals I prefer to avoid. But I gave it a try, since I had some of my homemade ginger ale in the refrigerator, and plenty of lemon balm.

Three ways to make lemon balm lemonade.

This recipe is also from Genius Kitchen. Steep a cup of lemon balm leaves in boiling water, strain, add honey to taste, and when you're ready for a glassful, add this syrup to ginger ale or sparkling water.

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Which one won my flavor test?

Recipe #1 was ok. I wish it tasted lemon-y-er; it was really more like tea than lemonade. Recipe #3 wanted to overpower the taste of the ginger ale, and I like the taste of my homemade ginger ale as it is. It would probably be better with club soda or sparkling water.

Lemon balm, lemons and honey make a delicious lemonade.

My favorite was recipe #2. The lemon zest and lemon balm turned a favorite summer beverage into triple-lemon-ade, with a complex depth of flavor. (I sound like such a lemonade connoisseur there, don't I? But you know how some lemonade is good while other recipes are WOW, right? This one is right up there with WOW.)

So what are you waiting for? It's summer, go harvest some lemon balm before it flowers and make some lemon balm lemonade.

Three ways to make lemon balm lemonade, because when life gives you lemon balm, you make lemonade!

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  1. Kelly Koutahi9:02 AM

    I have never grown lemon balm, but this makes me want to try it! Do the original plants overwinter, or does it just come up from seed anew every year?

    1. They are prolific self-seeders! But my original plant comes up every year in its pot too; we're in Zone 7b.

  2. I have some lemon balm growing that I planted last year. I hadn’t thought of making Lemon Balm-ade, but now I’m anxious to try it. Thanks for trying three different recipes and making a recommendation!

    1. Keep an eye on it, Michelle - it'll take off next year! :-)

  3. Well now I need to add lemon balm to my herb garden. We love lemonade and this would be perfect. Found you on Simple Homestead blog hop.

    1. I hope you like one of these recipes. Thank you for visiting.

  4. Hi Kathi, saw this post on the hop and was intrigued :)

    I had lemon balm at the last house and have been hesitating to plant it here because it spreads so easily. But after reading about how the bees love it and your recipe, I think I need to find a spot for it. I always loved the scent. Thanks for sharing!

    1. The scent is so lovely, isn't it, Lisa? I hope you can find a spot to put it where it won't be able to go hog-wild.


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