When Life Gives You Lemon Verbena

Growing up, as I’ve often said, I was definitely a book worm and although it was none too healthy a combination I was equally as big a tv couch potato.  As it sometimes happens those two parts of me happily collided with one certain book and television series, “Little House On The Prairie.” 

Around the age of eight I started reading about Laura Ingalls and her family and kept right on reading from Laura’s beginnings in “The Little House in The Big Woods” to “Farmer Boy” about her one day husband Almonzo or Manley if you prefer.  Although the television series showed up in 1974 and I didn’t make an entrance until ’76 the series stuck around till ’84 and even later through the wonder of re-runs.  Although the TV version didn’t exactly follow the books I loved it all the same.     

In all honesty, I probably remember way too much about those episodes.  I remember Laura pushing Nellie down the hill after she’d been pretending to lose the use of her legs, I remember Albert being turned into a werewolf to teach a bully a lesson, Mary sewing with Ms. Whipple and so much more.   I loved Laura and her family and wanted to do the things they did and possibly even dress like her.  Back in those days there didn’t seem to be as much merchandising of TV shows though so my chance to dress like a pioneer girl didn’t come about.  Granted there were those short years of my grunge phase where, as Dennis likes to say, I wore homemade granny dresses still it just wasn’t the same.  Beyond the day to day workings of that time era and the clothing one thing in particular that always held my interest was Lemon Verbena Perfume.  It seemed like everyone on the show had a bottle of the stuff.   I even recall one occasion when Pa said he planned on washin’ up at the creek and that he might even use a little Lemon Verbena himself.

As a kid I always wondered what Lemon Verbena smelled like.  I often checked in the beauty supply area to see if one day I might just run across it.  It wasn’t until recently, with the popularity of stores dedicated solely to body sprays, lotions and other scented items, that I came across an actual lemon perfume. 

In the store it smelled great and I felt certain that this must indeed be what Laura smelled like.  After getting it home and spraying it on myself  I soon felt certain that I smelled more like a bottle of the Lemon Pledge that my Momma used to make us dust with.  “Sigh”….that’s me bemoaning the loss of a childhood dream and thirty bucks.  While I still often spritz a few sprays round the house, mostly because I stupidly bought the biggest bottle of the stuff, I’ve about given up on lemon as a trademark scent. All the same I still have those fond memories of what I “thought” it would smell like.

So imagine my joy the other night when Dennis actually brought home some Lemon Verbena seedlings to plant alongside the other herbs we have out behind our deck.  I realize I’m a bit unnaturally excited about the prospect of growing my own and perhaps trying to figure out how to create perfume with it but I’ve never claimed to be normal so I decided to do a little research just to see if it could be done.  It seems that indeed it can be done but sadly you really need the essential oils from the plant rather than the plant itself.  Not to be deterred I figured if life gives me Lemon Verbena I’ll just cook with it instead of wear it!

Even though Lemon Verbena perfume recipes weren’t too easy to come by the edible versions were in abundance.  I found one particular site that I really liked:  www.urbanhomestead.org

They gave several uses for the plant like using it to flavor chicken and fish, for a pound cake, to flavor whipped cream and a simple syrup recipe for drinks.  This site then linked on to a cooking site called http://www.thekitchn.com .  That site had several recipes but with summer coming up I thought the syrup would be great to try for adding to tea or frozen drinks. 

If you don’t know, simple syrup is a mixture of sugar and water that is brought to a boil then cooled so that it can be added to things like tea, even if cold, thus making sweetening a bit less gritty than merely dumping the sugar in straight.  I’d like to say that I always knew about this but I had never been privy to tea time etiquette and condiments until one of my lovely board members, Mrs. Sondra Gwinn, gave me the recipe and uses of it so that I could help make it for one of the Friends of the Library Tea’s.  As much as I enjoy cooking it was pretty much a duh moment on my part because honestly it’s much easier than trying to dissolve the sugar the regular way.

Using Lemon Verbena syrup kills two birds with one stone by giving you lemon flavored tea even when you don’t have lemons.  Here’s how to make the syrup (recipe and directions from http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-lemon-verbena-simple-sy-51586 ):

Lemon Verbena Simple Syrup
1/2 cup sugar 
1/4 cup fresh lemon verbena leaves
1/2 cup water

Chop and bruise the lemon verbena leaves in a small bowl.  (Basically beat them up a bit by mashing them with the back of a fork or spoon).  Put the sugar in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup water and stir to dissolve as it comes to a simmer over low heat. Let it simmer for just a couple minutes.

Stir in the lemon verbena and take off the heat. Let steep for fifteen minutes, then put in the refrigerator to cool completely.  You can add this to your tea or other drinks to taste.

If you aren’t much of a tea drinker here’s a link for a cold and fizzy orange lemon combination:


This recipe calls for orange blossom water which I haven’t often found around here so I’d suggest using a little orange extract that can be found in the spice isle alongside vanilla extract.  Or perhaps a little orange zest.

With any luck it will be warm enough this weekend to get out and clean up the herbs that came back from last year and to plant the Verbena.  As soon as I start getting a decent production of it I may try my hand at one of those cake recipes or maybe….I wonder how a Lemon Verbena stand would go over?  Nickel a cup?  Hope you have a lovely and maybe lemon scented day!   Here’s a little ditty to send you into the weekend: http://youtu.be/bhHrOgOkXZw

Amy Morgeson~Covert Chickens