This week I’m making pesto. Jars and jars of it. I’ll use some immediately, freeze some, and give some away. In the garden amongst a few other things, I’ve got basil, lemon balm, and garlic – all of them perfect for pesto. The garlic scapes are already harvested. The basil and lemon balm are starting to go to flower – a sure sign that I need to get to work.
If you don’t already have lemon balm (also known as Melissa) in the garden, I recommend you find some. A friend gave me a small plant a year ago and now I don’t know how I lived without it for so long. It’s like rhubarb in that it’s a brilliant perennial – hardy and useful. Part of the mint family, Lemon Balm grows quickly and can take over the garden if you are not ruthless with it. Besides the fact that it is wonderful in pesto (recipe below), it’s also naturally antibacterial, attracts bees, and has a huge number of medicinal uses from fighting the herpes simplex virus, to being a natural sleep aid, to improving cognitive functioning. Preliminary studies show that lemon balm may be effective in fighting the HIV infection. It also has a number of uses in the kitchen – add the leaves to any green salad, use it to make tea, or make yourself a batch of this delicious pesto.
Lemon Balm Pesto
2 cups lemon balm leaves, washed and dried
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 tsp salt
Place all ingredients in food processor and whizz until desired consistency is reached.
Try serving lemon balm pesto with linguine, topped with freshly grated parmesan, black pepper, and cherry tomatoes.