Native to the west coast of South America, lemon verbena is a perennial herb with oil-rich leaves that produce a bright, citrusy flavor. It also goes by the names cedron and yerba Luisa.
Brought back to Europe by Spanish explorers, lemon verbena was planted in the royal botanical gardens of Madrid. After being shared with botanists in France and Britain in the late 18th century, lemon verbena became a favorite plant of the Victorian era, grown in greenhouses around London, used in fragrant bouquets, and even sewn into women’s dresses.
Lemon verbena is known for a rich collection of antioxidants and bioflavonoids. One of its primary compounds, luteolin, possess anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties that destroy free radicals. The herb is used medicinally to ease digestive disorders, joint pain, insomnia, fever, respiratory and skin issues.
Stand lemon verbena sprigs in a glass of water and keep for up to 1 week. Alternatively, wrap sprigs in a damp paper towel, seal in a plastic bag or jar, and keep in the refrigerator crisper for 2 days.
Lemon verbena adds a subtle citrusy flavor to fish and poultry dishes, vegetable marinades, and salad dressings. It is also a common flavoring for tea, jelly, syrup, whipped cream, and liqueur, and is a main ingredient in potpourri.
Separate desired number of leaves from stem and chop finely or use whole. 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon verbena substitutes for 1 teaspoon dried.