Monday, September 29, 2008

What's in an Herbal Name?

Several years ago when we opened e-mail addresses, I decided that I would not use my real name, but an herb. It was easy to pick the herb, lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) was it. Cedron is Spanish for lemon verbena. It was the herb of the princess (Maria Louisa, wife of King Charles IV of Spain). Don't confuse it with lemon grass. It is a plant of American origin (that is Chile). It is a perennial in tropical areas that can reach to ten feet high. It is a tender perennial for us in the north. We always have it on our kitchen windowsill in the winter. When you bring it in, it will play dead and lose its leaves. Use them for tea, in a tea bread (recipe follows) or in potpourri. You should water it every week to ten days. Then in December cut it back to about three or four inches. In February it will resprout and by the time it is ready to go outside in May, you will have a plant like the one in the photo above.

Here are some of my favorite thoughts about lemon verbena.

In The Herbal Home Companion, Theresa Loe writes that "In Gone with the Wind, lemon verbena was mentioned as the favorite cologne of Scarlet O'Hara's mother."

"Can be used in place of lemon juice in hot tea and iced drinks."

In The Best of Thymes, Marge Clark talks about using dried lemon verbena leaves. "I treat dried lemon verbena leaves like bay leaves. Since the leaves are rather coarse and dry. I try to use them whole-leaf so they can be removed at the end of cooking. If leaves are not or cannot be used whole, then chop them fine or, better yet, whirl in food processor or blender to make a powder. Fresh leaves are best for cooking."

In Growing & Using Herbs with Confidence, Bertha Reppert talks about the history of lemon verbena when she writes "Housewives once sewed lemon verbena leaves into the darts of their Sunday dresses, replacing them when necessary--a fragrant, natural deodorant."

Here is my favorite lemon verbena recipe. It comes from the February/March, 1990 The Herb Companion magazine:

Lemon Verbena Bread

1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh lemon verbena leaves chopped
1-1/2 cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
Grated rind of 1 lemon
3/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Cream butter with verbena leaves in mixer or food processor. I use my food processor. Add sugar and beat well, then eggs, salt and remaining ingredients. Grease loaf pans: 1 large, 2 small or 4 minis and pour in batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 65 minutes. I usually bake it in one large pan. Bake until bread tests done with a toothpick or cake tester. Meanwhile, prepare glaze. (I usually don't use the glaze.) I'm giving it to you because every person's taste is different. Leave loaf in pan. While it is still hot, pour glaze over it and let sit several hours. Remove loaf from pan. Wrap in foil to ripen overnight before serving, or freeze immediately.


1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon verbena leaves, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon

This is what lemon verbena looks like in the garden. The flowers are insignificant. The leaves are why you are growing this plant. The clear and crisp flavor of lemon is another reason you will want this in the garden. Give it well-drained soil and full sun and you will be rewarded with a four-foot gem. So what's in an herbal name? The best herb in the world!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this recipe. I learned about it from a link you shared in your Saturday, December 14, 2013 blog post. I think this bread would go wonderfully with a cup of tea.

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

We are eating some at the moment with our tea and coffee. I think you will really enjoy it! Very easy to make! xo