Summery Flavours: Lemon Verbena

Yes, “summery”… I’d say summer has arrived!

Aloysia citrodora

(also known as Lemon Verbena or Lemon Beebrush)

This aromatic herb has been well-known in Europe since the end of the 18th century. Botanists and Spanish sailors brought it back from their travels in South America, and it became popular as a lemon substitute in both sweet and savoury dishes, as well as in tea. When you rub the leaves there is a wonderful scent of lemon… I would say it smells and tastes just like sherbert lemon bonbons!

In its native habitat it will grow up to 3 or 4 metres high, but is usually only a short shrub in Europe. It is hardy only to -4°C, so wouldn’t like our winters!

I have planted two in containers for the summer, and may try to bring one through the winter indoors. However, if it drops its leaves, as it tends to do when it is too cold, I will use them like lavender in my drawers and cupboards.

The other herbs in my “tropical” container are Orange Thyme, Lemon Thyme, and Pineapple Sage. I also have some Orange Mint.

I’ll post about them another day.

The Lemon Verbena leaf is delicious in salads, or with sweet dishes such as rice pudding or fruit salad, but use it sparingly as it has quite a pungent flavour. The distinct clean citrus oil aroma is retained when the leaves are dried, so it can be stored for some time without losing its appeal!

Here is one way of retaining that fresh tangy flavour for a hot day…

Lemon Verbena Sorbet

  • 1 cup lemon verbena leaves
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 cups water

Whizz the cleaned leaves and sugar together in a food processor. Then add the lemon juice and whizz again, and then add the water. Whizz until it is combined into a beautiful lemony green syrup! Strain, to remove any bits of leaves, and then either freeze or churn in an ice-cream maker and then freeze. Take out of the freezer to stand about 10 minutes before serving.

Serve this refreshing sorbet alone or with strawberries or other early summer berries.

This took us back to our childhood… just like those lemonade ice lollies we used to get on sticks! But this sorbet has a very natural flavour, and no bitter aftertaste like some lemon ices.