Summery Flavours: Lemon Verbena

Yes, “summery”… I’d say summer has arrived!

Aloysia citrodora

(also known as Lemon Verbena or Lemon Beebrush)

This aromatic herb has been well-known in Europe since the end of the 18th century. Botanists and Spanish sailors brought it back from their travels in South America, and it became popular as a lemon substitute in both sweet and savoury dishes, as well as in tea. When you rub the leaves there is a wonderful scent of lemon… I would say it smells and tastes just like sherbert lemon bonbons!

In its native habitat it will grow up to 3 or 4 metres high, but is usually only a short shrub in Europe. It is hardy only to -4°C, so wouldn’t like our winters!

I have planted two in containers for the summer, and may try to bring one through the winter indoors. However, if it drops its leaves, as it tends to do when it is too cold, I will use them like lavender in my drawers and cupboards.

The other herbs in my “tropical” container are Orange Thyme, Lemon Thyme, and Pineapple Sage. I also have some Orange Mint.

I’ll post about them another day.

The Lemon Verbena leaf is delicious in salads, or with sweet dishes such as rice pudding or fruit salad, but use it sparingly as it has quite a pungent flavour. The distinct clean citrus oil aroma is retained when the leaves are dried, so it can be stored for some time without losing its appeal!

Here is one way of retaining that fresh tangy flavour for a hot day…

Lemon Verbena Sorbet

  • 1 cup lemon verbena leaves
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 cups water

Whizz the cleaned leaves and sugar together in a food processor. Then add the lemon juice and whizz again, and then add the water. Whizz until it is combined into a beautiful lemony green syrup! Strain, to remove any bits of leaves, and then either freeze or churn in an ice-cream maker and then freeze. Take out of the freezer to stand about 10 minutes before serving.

Serve this refreshing sorbet alone or with strawberries or other early summer berries.

This took us back to our childhood… just like those lemonade ice lollies we used to get on sticks! But this sorbet has a very natural flavour, and no bitter aftertaste like some lemon ices.

33 thoughts on “Summery Flavours: Lemon Verbena

  1. Hello Cathy! I have a love/hate relationship with lemon verbena, I love it, It hates me and dies. ( I should know better than to let it winter outside) I may try again. I love your idea of the thymes and pineapple sage with the verbena together in a pot. I bet the scent is marvelous.
    The sorbet looks very good and refreshing. Perfect for summer. I must try it sometime when we get some summer where I am.

    • The lemon verbena is right next to my watering cans, so I often brush against it and it does smell wonderful!
      Hope you get some sunshine this weekend, and hope you dare try growing the verbena again one day! 😀

  2. I am really glad I found this sight. It brings the flavor of refreshing country, resourceful natural simplicity that weakens the unwanted urban residues that build on the walls of a soul living so close to a large American city. Thanks for having such a cool and authentic blog Cathy. I will add this herb to my overhanging rail garden. Though I have to pass on the yummy Sorbet, the sugar is a big no, no for me:) love all the other practical and healthy suggestions.

      • Oh, I am sure it tastes magnificent. Perhaps there is a way to substitute the sugar. Perhaps a way to fuse the herb into the fruit sorbets I make using frozen fruit. Predominantly strawberries, berries, peaches, apricots and pineapple. I use a kitchen appliance called a Green Star which is also great for juicing, pasta, and nut butters.

  3. They always drop their leaves when you bring them inside. Just treat it like any other houseplant, and a couple of weeks later, it’ll grow new ones…Mine is getting ready to go back outside for the 4th year. That’s a true victory for me…wish I could say the same for the bay laurels I keep killing!

  4. Ich liebe den Duft von Verbene und auch den Tee. Das Sorbet sieht einfach fantastisch aus und regt dazu an, es nachzumachen. Herrlich frische Zitronen- Orangen- und sonstige Düfte!

  5. I was selling plants at our garden club plant sale yesterday Cathy and my lemon verbena cuttings went as soon as customers stroked the leaves 🙂 Mine overwinters in a cold greenhouse. Chocolate peppermint was really popular too!

  6. I love lemon verbena and lemon thyme also, have never heard of orange thyme, will have to seek it out!

    • It is also a lovely aromatic herb, and I had never seen it before either. I’m still searching for a mandarin sage to complete the tropical theme! 🙂

  7. What a remarkable little plant! And thank you for providing those lovely tips and a recipe, too! I’ve got a hankering to grow some of my own, now. 😉 Does this require full sun, or will it tolerate a lot of shade? (Unfortunately, I have just a wee bit of full sun in my yard–and that wee spot is completely taken up by other plants!)

    • Mine is in the full sun and loves it… like so many herbs they are glad of sun so I’m not sure if they would tolerate shade. Do you have space on a warm windowsill?

  8. Mmmmm! Sounds delightful! And so summery . . . I planted lemon thyme for the first time last summer and fell in LOVE with it! After what I hope will be the last freeze forecasted tonight, I’m looking forward to planting my herbs for this summer too!

  9. Lemon verbena is one I’ve never tried but do have a sunny windowsill for winter cosseting. The sorbet is definitey one to try today as the temps rise – thanks for the recipe, will try with lemon balm and lime juice

    • Hi Janet. I have tried, but our winters can go down to -20°C (-23°C last winter!), so they haven’t really got a chance! One came through a mild winter once, but then was so sickly and weak it hardly produced any leaves. Glad you can keep yours through the winter though. 🙂

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