Fresh Ideas: Lemon Balm

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The amount of rain that’s fallen from the sky in recent weeks has not been kind to farms and gardens around here. My cucumbers and tomatoes are pretty done for,  my carrots are very unhappy, and my potato crop didn’t make it, either. I still have to assess the damage to everything else.

My herb garden, however, is completely unfazed, and this is precisely why I love growing herbs so much. Too little water? They are usually fine. Too much water? They are still fine.

With the end of the summer growing season, it’s time to start using up and preserving the abundance of herbs I’ve got. One of the herbs I’ve really got a bounty of right now is lemon balm. This herb is a perennial, one which is often recommended to be grown in a container because it loves to spread out. I grow mine in the ground, though, and am just thrilled to see it each spring when the plant starts to pop up.

There’s no reason to limit your pesto-making to basil…it’s great with lemon balm, too. Here I’ve combined lemon balm with parsley to make an intense spread that’s replete with garlic and uses cashews instead of the traditional pine nuts. You’ll love it on pasta, spread onto sandwiches, and wherever else your culinary imagination leads you.

Lemon Balm and Cashew Pesto Recipe

adapted from From The Cooks Garden by Ellen Ecker Ogden


  • 2 cups fresh lemon balm leaves, packed
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves, packed
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
  • Juice of 1 fat lemon (seeded)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Combine herbs, garlic, and cashews in the food processor and pulse a few times.
  2. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Turn it off and scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.
  3. Add the lemon juice and grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper, if you like.
  4. Pack into glass jar(s) and top with a little olive oil for storing in the refrigerator (where it should last a few weeks). Or, use freezer-safe containers and store for a longer-term in the freezer (if doing this, I’d omit the cheese from the recipe and add it after you’ve defrosted the pesto).

–Winnie Abramson writes the organic gardening and food blog Healthy Green Kitchen.

Photo credits: Winnie Abramson


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