Toggle navigation

How to: use lemon verbena

Photo -

This herb is loved by cooks for the fragrant citrus scent of its leaves, which at this time of year are fresh and soft. One bonus of adding lemon verbena to everything you can think of – the more you use the better it looks! Robin Powell shares a few ideas.


You’ll want this fragrant shrub near the front or back door, or by the front gate or path, so that whenever you go in or out of the house you can brush its scented leaves and sense the air become perfumed with its lovely lemon fragrance. The bonus of having it close is that it’s no trouble to snip off a few branches to scent your spring cooking and baking.

Lemon verbena, Aloysia citriodora, will grow just about anywhere in the country though it doesn’t like frost much and will drop leaves and sulk when the weather is really grim. Choose a position with plenty of sun and keep it pruned by snipping the flowers for jugs and glasses indoors throughout spring and summer, and picking small branches to strip the leaves for cooking, or for making tea. This tip pruning will promote bushiness and prevent it growing into a straggly shrub as lanky and tall as a basketballer.


Lemon verbena poached pears

Place 2 cups of sugar and 6 cups of water in a saucepan and slowly heat to dissolve the sugar, then bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Peel 4 buerre bosc pears and add them to the syrup, along with a handful of lemon verbena leaves. Simmer gently, for 15-20 minutes until tender.


Lemon verbena sugar

Bury half a dozen leaves per cup of caster sugar in a jar and use the lemon-scented sugar to dust shortbread or muffins before baking, or to lend an exotic note to fresh strawberries or fruit salad.


Lemon verbena sorbet

Whizz a cup of fresh, washed and dried lemon verbena leaves with a cup of caster sugar in a food processor. Scrape into a bowl, add the zest and juice of half a lemon and 3 cups of water and stir to dissolve. Strain to get rid of leafy bits, add a slug of limoncello and churn in an ice cream maker. Serve for dessert or as the basis of a cocktail, with a shot of vodka poured over, or topped with a glass of sparkling wine.


Photo -


Lemon verbena tea

Steep fresh or dried leaves in boiling water. To dry leaves spread on baking paper on baking sheets and place the trays in the oven set to its lowest setting for 2- 3 hours. The dried leaves retain their fragrance. Dry a mix with mint or a little ginger.


Lemon verbena ice cream

Steep two handfuls of fresh washed and dried leaves to a litre of milk/ cream, following your favourite basic ice cream recipe. You might also add a finely chopped leaf to add to the churned ice cream for extra flavour and tiny flecks of colour.


Text: Robin Powell

About this article

Author: Robin Powell