Lemon balm and leeks are the perfect spring pairing. Both are coming up in gardens right now. This is a lovely, smooth soup with subtle floral notes and a pretty color. Perfect for an elegant Sunday brunch. Warms well for a quick nutritious lunch on a busy day.
Lemon Balm and Leek Soup
2 cups of coarsely chopped fresh young leeks sauteed on medium heat for 15 minutes.
1 3/4 cup of whole cashews
1-2 chicken flavored bouillon cubes or 2 cups of stock/broth of your choice.
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of fresh lemon balm leaves
2-4 cups of water
Add all of the above ingredients to a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for 15 minutes. Blend in batches, adding water if necessary. You want a very smooth, silky liquid. You can thin with more broth or water to your taste. A thin soup is for a more light/formal occasion. A thick or hearty soup is nice for a colder day. Serve immediately. This soup needs a garnish for interest-lemon balm infused oil/pesto, chopped chives/herbs, croutons, etc.
Lemon balm is a perennial found in the Mint family. Its many tall, auxiliary, four sided stems have very small two lipped flowers at their tips. A favorite of bumblebees these can be white, lavender or pink. The leaves are brilliant green, heart shaped/oval with a point. These are oppositely arranged with slightly serrated margins. Most members of the Mint family possess highly aromatic essential oils which repel pests. Mellissa has a unique smell of artificial lemon. This herb can grow as high as two feet tall. Easy to grow- it prefers moist, rich, well drained soil in shade or partial sun. Lemon balm grows well in pots and in most climates but can self seed and become an invasive plant. Remove volunteers/babies as they appear to prevent this.
Melissa is versatile and has a long history of use. It is cooling, calming, and cleansing. Its antispasmodic action makes it useful for treating menstrual cramps, general pain, headaches and infant colic. As a digestive it reduces indigestion and gas. High levels of the volatile oil cintronellal are helpful for depression, insomnia, restlessness, nightmares, teething, and anxiety. Lemon balm is a favorite tea with children due to its mild taste. Powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties make it popular to treat childhood illnesses, the flu, colds, and viruses in the herpes family. As an antihistamine it is useful for allergies and eczema.
Lemon balm can be applied externally on sunburn, wounds, burns, insect bites, and boils.
Medicinal Parts:leave and immature tops. Due to loss of volatile oils it is better to use it fresh or frozen rather than dried.
Energetics:sour, cool, dry
Contraindications:Hypothyroidism. If you have a bee venom allergy do not use the essential oil in homemade bug repellant as bees love the smell.
Lemon balm appears in recipes to wrap fish. It can be a substitute for basil or parsley in pesto, salsa and tabouleh. Replace it for green in salad, soups, and sauces. Try it in a jelly, curd, or butter. Slip it into muffins and other baked goods.