Home growers lucky enough to have access to a lemon tree know that just brushing against the plant’s leaves stirs the air with an intense citrus fragrance. Lemon leaves contain properties which make them useful to infuse food with flavor, add fragrance to home and beauty products, and even help unclog the sinuses.
Dry lemon leaves in a dehydrator overnight, or in a cool dry place for at least a week, until the leaves become dry and crumbly. Use the leaves as the base for citrus potpourri, adding any of the following: Dried citrus peel, dried lemon balm, lemon verbena or lemon thyme leaves, essential oils of lemon, orange, neroli, grapefruit or tangerine (or a combination of two or more of these intense oils). Blend in lavender, rose buds, calendula petals, juniper berries or dried orange blossoms for extra color and texture.
Lend an Asian or Greek look to your grilled foods by wrapping meats and fish in fresh, organic lemon leaves. This practice imparts a citrus zing to the dishes while also locking in moisture. Always use your own leaves, or those from a trusted source, to ensure that they are pesticide-free. Unlike grape leaves, lemon leaves are not edible. Remove them from your prepared dish before eating it.
For a decorative touch, line a serving platter with them and top them with grilled meats or a cold salad.
Any extra leaves will look lovely in a pitcher of lemonade or sangria, or garnishing individual drink cups.
Healing Tea and Steam Therapy
Infused fresh or dried lemon leaves make flavorful teas which may help fight off colds and sinus infections. Boil a handful of fresh leaves, or a smaller amount dried leaves, in a saucepan of water. Sip up to four times a day. Alternatively, after removing the pan from the burner and allowing it to cool slightly, bend over the pan with a table draped around your shoulders and head to trap the steam, and breathe in the vapors for several minutes.
Lemon leaves make beautiful substitutes for pine trees in either tabletop or freestanding holiday creations. Use overlapping leaves molded over a three-inch foam cone and pinned into place. Place the covered cones into decorative planters and allow the leaves to dry in place.
Alternatively, use whole branches from lemon trees to create larger cone-shaped decorations, with the help of a chicken-wire armature.
To make staircase or mantelpiece garlands, string lemon leaves onto strong thread or wire, alternating the leaves with apple slices, cinnamon sticks, pine cones or whatever strikes your fancy.
According to the University of Florida extension service, lemon tree leaves, along with twigs and fruit pulp, make their way to processing plants once lemon juice is expressed. The leaves and pulp are then ground and dried into citrus feed pellets, which studies show enhance the food value for various forms of cattle.