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Seasonal Eats: 5 Ways to Use Lemon Verbena

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Lemon verbena is a really special flowering perennial herb in high season right now in Southern California. It's an herb with a strong lemon flavor, but that doesn't quite cut it as a description. Lemon verbena's flavor is also rounded out by the lack of acidity that comes with lemons, and a distinctly herbal green flavor that comes from the leaves, similar to lemon basil. You'll only find it at herbs & greens sellers at farmers' markets, but it also grows really well in the Los Angeles climate and makes a great addition to the garden.

The oils that scent lemon verbena have moderate antioxidant and antibacterial properties, and have anti-candida albicans activity (a fungus that is naturally part of normal gut flora, but that can become opportunistic when immunity is compromised and cause infection).

You'll often see lemon verbena as a scent ingredient in soaps and perfumes, but it makes a delicious tea when brewed on its own or in a mixture with other herbs. Lemon verbena is an ideal choice for simple syrups you can drizzle over fruit, mix into whipped cream or add to cocktails. A great way to enjoy the flavor is a refreshing herbal & floral ice cream.

5 ways to use fresh lemon verbena:

  • Infuse lemon verbena flavor into oil for use in your favorite recipes: lemon verbena oil.
  • Use your favorite white wine vinegar to extract the flavor of lemon verbena into a flavored vinegar: lemon verbena vinegar.
  • Blend lemon verbena leaves into a zingy pesto for dressing grilled vegetables or chicken: lemon verbena pesto.
  • Add the brightness of chiffonaded lemon verbena to an aioli dressing that goes well with greens or over fish: lemon verbena dressing.
  • Use lemon verbena as a flavor agent when brining meats before cooking: verbena-brined pork chops.