In our latest CSA box from Eatwell Farms we received a bundle of Lemon Verbena. I'm completely unfamiliar with the herb. What do I do with it? Fish? Steak? Tofu?
It smells like the essence of lemon, almost more lemony than lemons. There is also a woodsy note, not as up-front as the lemon but definitely there. Earthy, herbal, almost cedar-ish. I'm intrigued.
So, I read a little...
The plant is native to South America and grows to a height of about a foot or so. It is often used in herbal teas, commonly with mint and lavender. It is also found in perfumes, potpourri, and sachets.
The leaves dry up quickly; within hours of being picked. The leaves are tough though, and are often removed from the drink or dish once they have added their flavor, much like bay leaves.
With each box from Eatwell comes some recipes and enclosed this week was one called Fruit in Lemon Verbena Syrup. So I figure since I'm a neophyte of the herb, let's start there... this is a variation of theirs, ad libitum.
I began by making the syrup which was "simply" water, sugar, and Lemon Verbena. I eye-balled all three but close to 2 cups water, 1 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup dried Lemon Verbena.
I brought it to a boil, then killed the heat, and allowed it to cool.
Then I sliced up some fruit. I used Cantaloupe, Oranges, and Strawberries.
By the way, Eatwell's Strawberries are some of the most delicious I've ever had, and I grew up in California, which produces more than 85% of the US' strawberries.
What I noticed at a glance was how much smaller and darker they are than what you normally find.
Also, when I bit into them, their seeds were more pronounced than what I'm used to. Not unpleasant, but you notice them more.
I put the Lemon Verbena Syrup in a squirt bottle and hosed down the fruit salad with what may have been 2 tablesoons of it. I finished it by topping it with Goji Berries.
The extra syrup I think will make some fun cocktails, specifically, I think it would go well with gin. Both have that herbal/woodsy flavor; gin deriving its dominant character from juniper. I'll let you know.