I always grew lemon verbena when we were in the UK as I love its lemony scent. Plus, the dried leaves make a wonderful cup of herbal tea and it made good sense to grow my own. Out of necessity, since it is a tender plant, I grew it in a pot that migrated inside when the weather turned cold. It never really got big. In fact, the first time I moved it indoors, it fast became a dead, leafless twiggy-looking thing in the pot, remaining that way throughout the winter. It turned out to be fortuitous that I was reluctant to throw it onto the compost heap because that next spring, when it was warm enough to make the journey out to the patio, it began to produce greenery again. At least there was enough for me to harvest the leaves for a few stingy pots of tea. It did this year after year, ‘dying’ and rejuvenating. I dubbed it the Lazarus verbena.
Now that we are in Greece, and that Lazarus verbena in the UK has been given a new home, I thought I might plant one here as the climate is more suitable, actually thriving in the heat. So, there is now a young lemon verbena in my new herb garden, certainly not a small twiggy thing, but full and green and destined to get even bigger. Last year when it was a baby, it even kept its leaves over the mild winter.
I have now pruned it several times and dried the leaves in anticipation of that lovely mug of lemon verbena tea to be enjoyed in the cooler months. It is easy to dry the leaves – simply cut sprigs off the plant, tie a few together and hang them upside down in a dark dry place. When they are dried, they turn a darker colour. Pluck them off the stems and store. I’ve stuffed them in old recycled honey jars, coincidentally the perfect sweetener for the tea.
Not wanting to wait until winter to enjoy the tea, I created an iced version. Very refreshing on a hot summer’s day.
Iced Lemon Verbena Tea
An easy to make, slightly floral type of “lemonade”. Make sure you have lots of ice for serving.
- 10 to 15 dried lemon verbena leaves (or 1 to 2 bags of purchased lemon verbena tea)
- 1 litre water
- 5 Tablespoons honey (or sugar)- adjust quantity depending on taste
- 1 large juicy lemon
Boil the water and steep the leaves (stripped from the sprigs) in a teapot for a few minutes. The longer you leave the leaves, the stronger the tea. Adjust the timing to your taste.
Put the honey in a large bowl and pour in the hot tea, straining out the leaves. Stir to dissolve the honey. Juice the lemon and add. Cool and decant into a litre bottle. Chill in the refrigerator.
To serve, pour over lots of ice.