There’s something special and unforgettable about the fragrance of lemon verbena. Maybe it’s a delicate, fresh purity that the aroma brings to mind, or the honesty of a more innocent time gone by. Whatever your attraction, it’s easy to capture the essence for your very own. You won’t need any more sophisticated equipment than what Scarlett O’Hara of “Gone With the Wind” needed for making her favorite scent. Give yourself a week and a good summertime supply of fresh lemon verbena leaves. Healthy plants can tolerate heavy harvesting of their leaves, so help yourself.
Harvest lemon fresh verbena leaves. If you cut 12-14 inch long stems as you need them, you probably won’t have to prune your shrub later in the year. Shake the cut stems vigorously to dislodge any wayward insects that might have alit upon them.
Rinse the stems under cool running water to remove any dust or debris that might be clinging to them. Drain them well. Strip the leaves from the stems and store them immediately in airtight plastic containers in the refrigerator. Toss the stems on the compost heap.
Pick more leaves daily as the fast-growing lemon verbena plant produces more new foliage. Continue until you have enough to equal 1 tightly packed measuring cup of leaves. You’ll need a total of 4 cups to complete the project.
Dump 1 cup tightly packed leaves into a sealable plastic food storage bag. Squeeze as much air out of it as you can and close it. Pound the leaves gently with a wooden kitchen mallet. Don’t smash them into pulp. The idea is to bruise and crush the leaves well so that they’ll release the maximum amount of their fragrance. Empty the crushed leaves into a ½ gallon container.
Pour 1 cup of olive oil or grapeseed oil into the jar. Cap it tightly and set it on a sunny windowsill or other warm spot for about 48 hours.
Repeat the process as you acquire each of 3 more cups of lemon verbena leaves. Simply add everything to the ½ gallon jar throughout the process.
Allow the solution to continue to steep 72 hours following the final addition of leaves and oil. Strain it through cheesecloth or coffee filters to remove all solid materials. Add the solids to your compost heap.
Pour your aromatic lemon verbena oil into small dark-colored glass bottles and cap them tightly. Store your fragrance in a dark, cool location for up to a year.