Lemon mint, scientifically known as Monarda citriodora, is a delightful plant that has been appreciated for its unique flavor and aroma for centuries.
I discovered that this annual plant, native to both the midwestern and southern areas of the United States, belongs to the mint family and is sometimes referred to as purple horsemint or lemon bee balm.
The fragrant purple flowers of this plant are truly a sight to see, as they bloom during the spring and summer seasons.
Diving into the historical background of lemon mint, I came across an interesting association with a 16th-century Spanish physician named Nicholas Monarda.
He was the one who introduced lemon mint to Europeans in the 1500’s, and the plant’s scientific name, Monarda citriodora, was actually derived in his honor.
In the present day, lemon mint continues to be a popular addition to many gardens due to its charming scent and easy-to-grow nature.
Now that you know a bit more about the history and scientific background of this plant, let me share some more fascinating info about lemon mint.
Lemon Mint: Deets on the Plant
Another thing I love about lemon mint is its origin. This delightful plant is native to northern Mexico and the southern United States. I find it incredible that it can thrive in various climates and conditions, making it a perfect addition to any garden.
Moreover, it’s worth mentioning that lemon mint is sometimes mistaken for Melissa officinalis, another plant with a lemon-like fragrance that also goes by the name lemon balm. Neither are actually true mints.
When I grow lemon mint in my own garden, I’m always amazed by its wonderful features. For instance, the round longated heads of its flowers make it appear quite beautiful as they are purplish pink.
The leaves of lemon mint are delicate and emit a pleasant lemony scent.
Some uses that I’ve found for lemon mint include making delicious, refreshing teas (hot or iced) with its leaves, as well as using them to flavor desserts or even on your salad!
I highly recommend trying this plant in your own herb garden; its beautiful flowers, pleasant aroma, and so many wonderful uses in your kitchen.
Growing Lemon Mint
To grow Lemon Mint, I start by finding a location that has full sun or partial shade, as the plant performs best in these conditions.
It’s also important to select a spot with well-drained soil, as Lemon Mint prefers medium moisture levels. In fact, one of the things I appreciate about this herb is that it’s drought-tolerant, so it won’t require constant watering.
When choosing a spot for my plant, I also consider the soil type. Lemon Mint can tolerate rocky soils, so if you have a rocky area in your garden, this herb could be a great choice.
Once the ideal location is selected, I prepare the area by loosening the soil and adding organic matter, if necessary, to improve drainage.
Planting Lemon Mint is quite easy. I sow the seeds directly into the garden during spring or early fall. To increase their chances of germination, I scatter the seeds evenly across the area and gently press them into the soil.
Lemon Mint is also known for its self-seeding tendencies, so I make sure to keep an eye on the plants to prevent them from spreading too far.
If you prefer transplanting, you can start Lemon Mint indoors during late winter and transplant the seedlings once the last frost has passed.
When transplanting, I dig a hole large enough to accommodate the root ball and space the plants about 18 inches apart. This will provide them with enough room for their runners to spread without competing for space.
Lemon Mint adapts well to various hardiness zones, making it a versatile choice for gardeners.
I find it fascinating to watch the plant grow and produce tight, spike-shaped clusters of lavender flowers that are not only beautiful but also attractive to beneficial pollinators.
Growing Lemon Mint has been such a pleasure for me, and I hope you’ll enjoy adding this wonderful herb to your garden as much as I do.
Cultivars and Hybrids (Similar Plant Buddies)
When it comes to lemon mint, there are several exciting cultivars and hybrids available for gardening enthusiasts like me. If you are not sure what that means…its just a fancy way of saying similar plants or related plants to lemon mint.
Some have unique scents, flavors, or even colors. Among the many mint relatives, a few stand out for their distinct lemon scent and flavor.
One of my favorites is lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). This easy-to-grow perennial herb is similar to lemon mint in aroma and flavor, but what sets it apart is its ability to repel insects. Lemon balm has a bright lemony scent that I find both refreshing and calming.
Another fantastic mint hybrid is the bee balm (Monarda). This group is particularly attractive to pollinators, as its name and vivid flowers suggest. I enjoy the aromatic bee balms which include Lemon bee balm, characterized by its light lemony scent and tubular flowers.
Bee balms come in various shades, and many gardeners, including myself, appreciate them for their vibrant colors and wildlife-friendly properties.
Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) is a mint cultivar I also find intriguing. Its fuzzy leaves and apple-like aroma give it a unique charm.
Although this cultivar does not have a lemony scent like other varieties mentioned, its fruity aroma can still make a pleasant addition to a mint collection.
Plain’s horsemint (Monarda pectinata) is a beautiful wildflowers growing across western and southern North America.
Lemon Mint Uses in the Kitchen
Lemon mint is a great herb to use in the kitchen. It’s so simple to grow and produces such a lovely mint for drinks.
When I have a fresh batch of lemon mint leaves, I love making a soothing cup of tea.
To make lemon mint tea, I simply steep the fresh leaves in hot water for about 5 minutes and then add a touch of honey or sugar to taste.
This delicious tea not only has a delightful flavor, but it also has a calming effect and makes for a perfect afternoon or before bed.
This also makes a wonder herbal iced tea and is quite refreshing. It also can be mixed with black or green tea.
Another way I enjoy using lemon mint in the kitchen is by incorporating it into my salads. The combination of fresh mint leaves and a hint of lemon adds a tangy twist to any salad.
To keep the flavors light and summery, I pair lemon mint with butter lettuce, cucumber, and burst cherry tomatoes, and then drizzle a bit of lemon juice and olive oil over it all. YUM!
Another great use for lemon mint, is in desserts. Its refreshing flavor pairs wonderfully with sweet treats, such as sorbets and fruit salads.
To create a simple lemon mint sorbet, I combine 2 cups of sugar, 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chopped fresh lemon mint, and 5 cups of water in a saucepan, then simmer for 5 minutes, let it cool, and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, I strain the syrup, discard the mint leaves, and then process it in an ice cream maker to get a delightful and refreshing sorbet. I love using my Ninja creami when making sorbets. It makes it super easy.
Harvesting and Storing
I’ve found that harvesting and storing lemon mint is quite easy and enjoyable. To ensure the best flavor and freshness, I usually harvest my lemon mint early in the morning.
Since lemon mint is a perennial herb, I can harvest it multiple times throughout the year.
When I’m ready to harvest, I simply use a pair of clean scissors or garden shears to snip the stems about an inch or two above the soil.
This helps promote new growth and keeps my lemon mint plant looking healthy and lush. I then gather the stems together, remove any damaged or discolored leaves, and then give them a quick rinse under cool water.
Now, I want to preserve this refreshing lemon-minty flavor, so the next step is essential: proper storage. To store lemon mint, I usually choose one of the following methods, depending on the intended use:
- Dried: If I plan to use the lemon mint in herbal tea blends, I prefer drying the leaves. To do this, I tie the harvested stems in small bundles and hang them upside down in a warm, well-ventilated, and dark space until they are completely dry (typically around 1-2 weeks). You can also try the paper bag method to drying herbs as well.
Once dried, I gently remove the leaves from the stems and store them in an airtight container away from direct sunlight.
- Refrigerated: When I need fresh lemon mint for culinary purposes, I use the refrigerator storage method or even freeze.
I wrap the stems in a slightly damp paper towel and place them in a plastic bag or container, leaving a small gap for air circulation. This can keep the lemon mint fresh for up to a week.
So, there you have it––a quick and friendly guide on harvesting and storing lemon mint. Happy gardening!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of lemon mint?
Lemon mint is a popular herb with multiple benefits. It is known for its calming properties that can help with anxiety and insomnia.
In addition to promoting relaxation, lemon mint can help soothe digestive issues and may aid in reducing cold sores due to its antiviral properties.
Is the lemon mint plant edible?
Yes, the lemon mint plant is indeed edible! The leaves can be used fresh or dried in various dishes and drinks, adding a unique lemony flavor. I love using lemon mint in my tea, salads, and desserts for a refreshing taste.
How different is lemon mint from regular mint?
While both lemon mint and regular mint come from the same plant family (Lamiaceae), they differ in several aspects.
The most obvious difference is their flavors: lemon mint has a distinct lemony taste, while regular mint has a pure, cooling mint flavor. The appearance of their leaves also differs, with lemon mint having sharper edges than regular mint.
Does lemon mint grow yearly or just once?
Lemon mint is a perennial herb, which means it grows back year after year! Once established, you can enjoy its fresh leaves and fragrant blossoms throughout the growing season, making it a low-maintenance addition to your garden.
How to grow and care for lemon mint?
Growing lemon mint is relatively easy and suitable for beginner gardeners. Plant it in well-draining soil under full sun or partial shade to ensure healthy growth.
As with other mint varieties, lemon mint tends to spread quickly, so make sure to plant it in pots or in designated areas to control its growth.
Regular watering and occasional pruning will help the plant thrive and provide you with a bounty of fresh lemon mint leaves to use in your favorite dishes and drinks.