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Lemon balm leaves

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), not to be confused with bee balm, Monarda species, is a perennial herb in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region.

It grows to 70-150 cm tall. The leaves have a gentle lemon scent, related to mint. At the end of the summer, small white flowers full of nectar appear. These attract bees, hence the genus name Melissa (Greek for ‘honey bee’). Its flavour comes from the terpenes citronellal, citronellol, citral, and geraniol.

This herb can be easy to cultivate in Plant Hardiness Zones 4 to 9 according to the United States Department of Agriculture. In zone 4, it needs winter mulch and a well-drained sandy soil to survive. In zone 7, it can be harvested at least until the end of November. While it prefers full sun (as described on most plant tags), it is moderately shade-tolerant, much more so than most herbs. In dry climates, it grows best in partial shade. It can also be easily grown as an indoor potted herb.

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