Other names: Louisa, (Aloysia triphylla)
Availability: Spring Summer
Source: Argentina and Chile
General Information: Lemon Verbena is an herb that is actually a small tree instead of a flowering plant. Lemon verbena is a relatively hearty herb with a very strong citrus scent. It is only one kind of a family of verbenas, all with their own unique properties. However, the lemon variety is particularly interesting, fun to use, and versatile.
Applications: As a culinary, lemon verbena makes one of the best beverage teas, especially when blended with mint. Finely crumbled dried leaves can be added to the batters of carrot, banana, or zucchini bread. Try adding some to cooked rice just before serving.
Chop the leaves finely or just infuse whole leaves into teas, broths, or marinades. Use it anytime you want a strong lemon scent. An herb butter with lemon verbena is wonderful on fresh grilled fish or chicken. Commercially, the essential oil is an ingredient of liqueurs.
The dried leaves are wonderful in pot-pourris. An mild infusion makes a refreshing spritzer for the face.
History: Lemon verbena came to North America from Chile and Argentina via early Spanish explorers. It is the favorite of the lemon-scented herbs because it has the strongest, cleanest lemony flavor. Its essential oil was once used for perfume, but has since declined due to evidence that it may make the skin more sensitive to sunlight.
It has been a favorite for garden rooms in North America since its introduction in the 1800's. It was named after Maria Louisa, Princess of Parma in 1819. It has a clean, sharp lemon scent that makes it the Queen of lemon-scented herbs. In Gone with the Wind, lemon verbena is mentioned as Scarlet O'Hara's mother's favorite plant.