Lemon verbena is an herb native to Chili and Peru. There it grows more than 15-feet tall, but in areas not as warm the plant may reach a foot or so. It needs about six to eight hours of sun per day and well-drained soil, but otherwise it is east to grow. The taste and scent is very strong and lemony, and both fresh and dried leaves work well in many dishes.
Lemon verbena makes a wonderful hot or cold tea. It can be steeped in hot water alone to make a lemony drink. For a little more dimension make plain tea by steeping a tea bag and add a leaf or two of lemon verbena and steep about five minutes. Remove the leaves and enjoy the lemony flavor. Lemon verbena and mint flavors compliment each other so try adding a few mint leaves as well.
Take 10 lemon verbena leaves and bruise them with the back of a spoon to release the oils, scent and flavors. Place them in a jar with a lid and pour one cup of olive oil over top. Let this steep for a week, then strain the leaves out. The oil will be flavored with a lemon taste. Use it to saute chicken, fish or other meats, or vegetables such as green beans.
Verbena butter lends a lemony taste to toast. It also can be used to saute chicken and fish, and it can be melted over all types of vegetables to give them a twist of lemon. Take one cup unsalted butter, one-fourth cup of fresh lemon juice, one tablespoon powdered sugar and six lemon verbena leaves and put them in the food processor. Process until well combined, place in a bowl and store in the refrigerator, or put in chocolate molds to serve at your next brunch gathering.
Lemon verbena sugar can be sprinkled over cereal, fruit or oatmeal for breakfast, or sugar cookies can be rolled in it to give them a lemon flavor. To make verbena sugar place eight dried leaves in the food processor and add one cup of granulated sugar. Pulse until well combined.
Other Culinary Uses
Chopped fresh verbena can be added to salads for a fresh flavor. Chopped leaves can be added to almost any vegetable dish, too. Put some in cottage cheese for a treat at lunch. Add some dried or fresh leaves to turkey stuffing to give it a citrus flavor. Make white or brown rice and add some chopped leaves to make lemon rice.