Melissa officinalis 'All Gold'
Lemon in colour and flavour and a great plant for a shady corner, this variety differs from the closely related Melisa officinalis 'Aurea' (syn.'Variegata') , the variegated lemon balm, which has leaves splashed and speckled with yellow. The interesting thing about 'All Gold' is that it can spend quite a bit of the year with green leaves, at least from autumn till late spring, though some say this is a response to overly rich soil which favours the green leaves. This year when I trimmed back my plant in late winter I took cuttings which I just layered into the soil in the vegetable garden .These soon struck and turned golden while the mother plant sat with a dull green face. Given too much sun the leaves can quickly bleach white then scorch brown. Overall this variety is less vigorous than the common green lemon balm and is a very worthy addition to an ornamental shady garden or herb patch.
The lemon balms are good bee plants and the name 'Melisa' is synonymous with the Greek word for bee and they are kept happy within a hive from the use of this plant growing thereabouts. It also has a long history of culinary use and can be used in any way where a zesty lemon flavour is required. As it grows wild in the southern parts of France, the French were inventive in using it in all manner of ways. The celebrated Eau de Carmes or Carmelite water was a popular tipple in the seventeenth century. You can make a modern version by adding the flowering tops of balm to a litre of brandy along with a few twists of lemon peel and aromatics such as angelica root, cloves, nutmeg, coriander seeds and cinnamon sticks.Left for a week or so to let the flavours infuse and then strained, you have yourselves a cordial tonic to uplift the spirits.