A Lemony Love Affair

img_5373-1We’re probably not allowed to have favourites but lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) is a kind of crowd pleaser herb, which doesn’t sound like a compliment. What we mean is that its lemon sherbet fragrance is so pungent yet natural that it excites even the biggest gardening sceptics. Who could resist a plant that smells so strongly of dessert and sweets?
Lemon verbena is known as a nervine, which means that it has a calming effect on the nervous system. This property makes that makes the herb a good ‘night tea’ before bed. Lemon verbena is also very easy to dry, the leaves not holding much water, we have been able to dry them overnight in the summer. You could also freeze them or store them in ice cubes for a lemony, icy kick in you summer drinks!
Lemon verbena originates from Chile and Argentina where it enjoys relatively mild weather and tolerates low rainfall. This has given the herb a reputation for fragility in our winter climes however, we have found it to grow and winter very well both in the ground and in pots – though temperatures stay slightly higher in London. As long as you keep lemon verbena in a sunny sheltered spot, it will surely do well! We expect this wonderful herb to continue gaining popularity.
One easy recipe to keep in mind with many herbs, including lemon verbena, is a simple syrup. It involves warming equal volumes of sugar and water, allowing the sugar to dissolve and then adding your fresh herbs to steep in the hot and cooling syrup mix. The more herbs you add, the stronger the flavour. The syrup can be used for flavouring and sweetening many things from soft drinks and cocktails to whipped creams and ice creams. The following recipe for lemon verbena cream that you can pair with cooked plums is from http://www.thekitchn.com:

 

Lemon Verbena Cream

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed fresh lemon verbena leaves
1 cup whipping cream

Chop and bruise the lemon verbena. Put sugar in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup water and stir to dissolve as it comes to a simmer over low heat. Let it simmer for just a couple minutes. Stir in the lemon verbena and take off the heat. Let steep for fifteen minutes, then put in the refrigerator to cool completely.

Whip the cream in a food processor, then add a few tablespoons of the lemon verbena syrup. Add as much syrup as you can without deflating the cream.

Serve sorbet and cream layered together in glasses or small bowls.

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