Monday, February 6, 2012

Lemon Verbena, Aloysia triphylla

Lemon Verbena  
Aloysia triphylla syn Lippia citriodora
Lemon verbena is at its best right now as it just starting to produce the terminal sprays of delicate white flowers at the end of this seasons growth.Though it can grow to be quite a big shrub of over 2 metres, its spends its teenage years as a gangly youth of loose sprawling branches which are quite lax and supple, often spreading over the ground instead of growing upright. The crisp raspy leaves are very reminiscent of Lantana to which it is closely related and like Lantana it will grow across a range of climates, except the very cold, though it is well known as a potted specimen in cool climates. As soon as the leaves are picked, or if a potted specimen runs short of water, the leaves wilt quick;y . This may explain why it is not offered for sale in greengrocers and is therefore less well known here compared to southern Italy or in France. The leaves can be picked for drying now as they retain their flavour and scent well. I also grow the lime verbena and the leaves have more of a bitter tone than the sweet lemon one.
Lemon verbena leaves compliment the flavour of honey-dew or rock melons when combined with a smokey cured ham. In France lemon verbena is called verveine. The recipe below is an interesting take on the Spanish gazpacho which is perfect on a hot summer day. The sharp pointed lemon verbena leaves make an attractive garnish or plate decoration on both sweet and savoury dishes but you need to pick the leaves just moments before serving.

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