We hope that it won’t be continued. But so far this summer, there’s been a marked absence of bees in the garden. Hence the appearance, suddenly, in the herb garden of some American Bee Balm (aka “honey plant”) in the hope that its blue-purple flowers, and fragrant scent will bring more bees by. Bee Balm in the herb garden is also quite apt. Otherwise known as wild bergamot, the plant is a member of the mint family and like mint, rosemary, or sage, can be widely used in the kitchen for all sorts of things. To give you some idea of its versatility: The soft petals (separated from the calyx) can go in salads. It can also be used, deliciously, in jams and jellies (remove the leaves, however before bottling). Leaves can be used in cooking (in tomato dishes you can use it as a substitute for oregano – in stuffings, you can use it instead of sage). Bergamot leaves can also brewed into a medicinal tea and can help relieve nausea, colds, headaches, and flatulence. To make a tea use one cup hot water, to 1 teaspoon leaves, steep for 5 minutes and sweeten with honey. In summer add lemon and serve iced. Wild bergamot, a native of North America, is similar to, but not the same as the Italian Bergamot Orange (Citris Bergamica )– which supplies the distinctive flavoring in Earl Grey Tea. You can also add leaves to hot water and use as an inhalation to help soothe a sore throat or help ease bronchitis. There are various varieties of Wild Bergamot. The Scarlet Bergamot variety was wildly used by the Oswego Indians of Northern New York for making tea – hence this plants other nom-de-plume – Oswego tea. We’d love some of the Scarlet variety in the garden, so if you see some around, let us know or add it to the herb plot!
To Harvest :
Pick leaves for fresh use at any time. Collect leaves and blooms for drying in midsummer. Spread out the leaves on a wire rack in a shady, warm, ventilated location. If the leaveshaven’t dried in 2 or 3 days, place them on a cookie sheet in a warm oven, When dry, crush the leaves and decant to an airtight container. Store in a dark place.Leaves can also be dried in a brown paper bag in a well-ventilated spot.Flowers and freshly chopped leaves can also be frozen for later use.
For pot pourri – pick flowers when blooms are almost completely open, then hang to dry.
(However, don’t pick all the flower until we see some bees!)