Long time garden friends will not be shocked when I say:
Lemon verbena still is – and will forever be – my favorite herb.
A delight to brush against on a hot summer night while out watering the garden, its scent is refreshingly lemony without being overpowering
It is easy to grow and mixes in easily in containers, cut flower gardens, vegetable patches -the list is endless. Lemon verbena will grow in full sun to partial shade. Just be sure to plant some near your kitchen door so you can step outside and cut some whenever you want a punch of lemon flavoring. It tends to get leggy if not pinched back regularly, so prune back and use the leaves often.
Though an annual in North Texas, it keeps its flavor when dried for winter use. If you can find lemon verbena in the nurseries now, it isn’t too late to plant and enjoy before our first freeze.
While I am still experimenting with ways to use this herb, I want to share two of my favorites. (And I will share my all-time favorite lemon verbena peach cobbler recipe soon!)
Lemon verbena lemonade (adapted from Fredericksburg Herb Farm’s recipe)
1 handful of lemon verbena leaves and lemon grass stalks
1 large can of frozen concentrate lemonade
2 large lemons, juiced
1 lemon, sliced for garnish
Wash and pat dry herbs, and place them in a large glass pitcher. Cover with the lemon juice. Stir together, pressing down on the herbs with a spoon. Add lemonade mix and 3 cups water, chill overnight. Garnish with lemon slices and additional herbs, if desired. (Mint may also be added to the lemonade. Alas. My son has mint sensitivities.)
Lemon verbena peach ice cream (adapted from Cuisinart’s strawberry ice cream recipe)
1 pint fresh peaches, peeled and diced
Lemon verbena leaves – about ¼ cup
3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup sugar, divided use
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
In a food processor, whirl together ½ cup sugar with the lemon verbena leaves until the leaves are chopped fine. (The scent will be amazing!) In a small bowl, combine the peaches with the lemon juice and the lemon verbena/sugar mixture. Stir gently and allow the peaches to macerate in the juices for a few hours.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and remaining sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Add in the heavy cream and any accumulated juice from the peaches. Turn on your prepared Cuisinart ice cream freezer and pour in the dairy mixture. Let mix until thickened, about 25-30 minutes. Add in the peaches during the last five minutes of freezing. (*Make sure the Cuisinart container is very cold, at least 24 hours in the freezer.)