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Lemon balm is one of the classic kitchen, spice and medicinal herbs. It convinces above all with its unique aroma. If you harvest her at the right time, you can enjoy it to the fullest.

In a nutshell

  • Don't wait too long to harvest lemon balm (Melissa officinalis).
  • Aroma and taste of the leaves only optimal before flowering
  • Leaves, flowers and stems can be harvested
  • Taste and scent vary significantly from species to species
  • Harvest possible over several years, lemon balm can be 20-30 years old

Harvest at the right time

Just before the flowers open, the aromatic content of the leaves is at its highest. In order to preserve as much of it as possible, it must be harvested at the right time, i.e. before flowering. The herb can be freshly harvested from around May/June to September. After that, this vigorous plant will quickly sprout again.
Consequently, it can be harvested three to four times a year as long as it has not yet flowered. This is the first time in the year of planting, depending on the time of planting from July/August. In the second year from May/beginning of June. It is best to harvest in the late morning, on a warm and dry day. The dew on the leaves should have dried off. Ideally, it has rained two or three days before or it is pouring.

Harvest Instructions

The right pruning at the right time can protect the plants from woody growth and self-seeding unless this is expressly desired. The required utensils for harvesting include a sharp knife and a container for the harvested goods.

  • For immediate use, harvest fresh at any time
  • Only harvest as much as can be used in a timely manner
  • Simply pick off fresh leaves
  • Or cut the entire stems
  • About a hand's breadth off the ground
  • If there is no rain, do not cut too deeply
  • Could weaken fresh shoots
  • Plants should not be higher than 40 cm

If you wait too long, the leaves will become fewer towards the bottom and the proportion of stems will increase. The lower leaves turn yellow, requiring higher pruning. As a result, the stems have to be trimmed to a height of about ten centimeters for good new growth.

Tip: To ensure that the plants sprout vigorously again next year, they should be cut off close to the ground in spring or immediately after flowering.

What if the lemon balm is already in bloom?

Depending on when the lemon balm was planted, it blooms from around June to August, unless it is harvested regularly. The opinion sometimes circulates that flowering lemon balm is poisonous. That's not the case. However, the taste and aroma of the leaves decrease significantly with flowering. Depending on the species, they can take on a slightly bitter taste.
The leaves are generally edible even after flowering. But you can also harvest the lemon-like scented flowers, because they are also edible, but not to everyone's taste. They are suitable, for example, for the preparation of syrup, blossom butter or simply as a decoration for desserts and other dishes.

Tip: If you have a heart for insects, you should leave a few stems and let them bloom anyway, because the flowers are a valuable source of nectar.

Store surplus crops cleverly

If there is more harvested material than can be used in a timely manner, lemon balm can also be preserved as a supply. It can be dried, frozen or preserved in oil. It retains most of its flavor when frozen.

Drying instructions

  • Air dry, oven dry or food dehydrator
  • Do not wash herbs before drying
  • Cut the stems just above the ground
  • Remove damaged areas and discolored or stained leaves
  • Tie several stems together into small bouquets
  • Hang upside down in a dark, dry and airy place
  • Room temperature ideally between twenty and thirty degrees
  • Loose leaves usually dry a little faster
  • To do this, carefully pluck the stalks
  • Spread out on a grid to dry
  • Herb is dry when the leaves rustle when touched

The best results are achieved in the dehydrator at temperatures between 30 and 50 degrees. The individual leaves should not touch. This also applies to drying in the oven. Here you dry at a maximum of 40 degrees and with the oven door slightly open. Utensils required are airtight cans or screw-top jars for storage.

Tip: Drying lemon balm makes sense if you want to use it as a medicinal herb. During drying, the essential oils that are responsible for taste and aroma evaporate, the healing active ingredients remain.


The best possible flavor is preserved by freezing. To do this, you can spread the freshly harvested leaves on a frost-proof plate and pre-freeze them first. Once frozen, you put them in cans or freezer bags and put them back in the freezer. Another method is to chop the fresh leaves and place them in the small compartments of an ice cube tray. Then fill it with water and put it in the freezer. In this way, the cubes can later be removed in portions.


To soak in oil, the fresh lemon balm is first washed and dabbed dry. Then you pluck the leaves from the stems and put them in a clean bottle. You then fill it up with oil so that the leaves are completely covered. Finally, the bottle is closed and the herbal oil mixture is placed in a bright and warm place without direct sunlight for four to six weeks. During this time, the oil-soluble substances are released from the leaves and accumulate in the oil. During this time, the bottle must be shaken more often.

frequently asked Questions

Can lemon balm be eaten raw?

Raw consumption is possible without any problems. However, it tastes best when the freshly harvested leaves are added to mushroom dishes, for example. The fresh shoots go very well with salads, fish, game and poultry. This herb is also ideal for seasoning raw vegetables or meat dishes. Even drinks can be refined in terms of appearance and taste.

Is flowering lemon balm poisonous?

Blossoming lemon balm is not poisonous, but its aroma is lost with the blossom, and the leaves can even taste bitter. Therefore, it should generally be harvested shortly before flowering.

Does this plant grow perennial and when does it bloom?

This plant is a perennial grower and can grow up to 30 years old and 90 cm high. Flowering time is usually from June to August.

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