lemon verbena

lemon verbena I think this has to be one of my favourite herbs of all time, well it's up there with thyme , basil and annual marjoram. If you are lucky enough to spot it in a garden centre or more likely a plant sale, grab some. They're very easy to grow but you do need to protect them from heavy frosts. I get away with leaving them outside all year round because they are quite sheltered on the bottom terrace where they grow, in pots, under some trees. You could be forgiven for thinking they haven't survived the winter as you're scrutinising the puny bare twigs, devoid of the merest scrap of green,then the weather warms up and you start to see the elongated leaves appear. When you rub the leaves it feels like a cat's tongue or a shark's skin ( I have felt that !) The sharp, floral fragrance reminds me of "acid drops" sweets. Anyone remember them? The leaves make a really delicious tea, just scrunch up some freshly picked leaves and pour over boiled water.

Here's a recipe for lemon verbena syrup. This will keep in the fridge for a good few weeks, well worth making. I use it folded through whipped cream for fools, as a syrup for fruit salad or as a base for cocktails.

You will need

500g sugar

500ml water

And a good big handful of lemon verbena leaves


Dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat, when it is completely dissolved, whack up the heat and chuck in the leaves. Let it simmer for about 10-15 mins,strain into a sterilised bottle.