Something that comes along right now and for the rest of the Summer is Lemon Balm. If you are lucky enough to have this in your garden - you probably have too much! If you don't currently have it then get out and buy a plant or beg one from a friend and plant somewhere where it can grow without invading other precious plants as it spreads like mad.
2000 years ago the Greeks so prized Lemon Balm, Melissa Officinalis, that they dedicated it to the goddess Diana and used it extensively as a medicine. There doesn't seem to be much that the powerful volatile oils can't help - in fact the common name for this herb was Cure All. It is especially beneficial for muscle and stomach cramps, urinary spasm, flatulence and nausea!
Lemon Balm growing under one of my apple trees very happily. It will easily double in size over the next few weeks before bursting into flower. The flowers are very small and quite insignificant, like so many herbs.
I have been making Lemon Vinegar and will carry on making batches of it through the Summer as it is very popular with my customers. I love it mixed with my Lemon & Dill Mustard and melted butter poured over hot new potatoes. Perfect with a barbeque or lunch in the garden. Yum. Bottle the vinegar in pretty bottles and I include a curl of lemon zest as well
The vinegar during the two week soaking stage
Something else that I am going to try this year is Lemon Balm Refresher - it is an old fashioned lemonade, not the over-carbonated sort that we are used to today but I can just taste this on a hot summer's day, sitting somewhere shady. I intended to make it last year but never got around to it . . .
Thinly peel the zest from 4 lemons and place in a heatproof jug with the leaves from 3-4 large stems of lemon balm, and the sugar. Crush the leaves so that they start releasing all of those lovely oils. Pour over the boiling water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Leave to one side while you squeeze the juice from the lemons - add this to your serving jug. Gather a few more small springs of lemon balm and add to this jug before straining over the cooled syrup. Top up with around 600ml/1 pint water of your choice and chill until needed. Add ice if desired. All I need now is a sunny day!
Try making my Pesto recipe substituting lemon balm for the basil and walnuts for the pinenuts - great on pasta with chicken or stirred into a spring vegetable soup, or a lovely fresh cucumber sandwich.
To dry the leaves for making tea - gather a bunch of the stems on a warm sunny morning - better still gather several bunches. Tie a length of string around the stems leaving a loop to hang them up by. Keeping the leaves attached, cover them with a paper bag and twist around to close, securing with some sticky tape if necessary. Hang upside down somewhere warm to dry which will take several weeks. When dry and crumble just detach the leaves and store in an airtight jar ready for use.
Try making the tea with fresh leaves when available, or use a couple of tablespoons of the dried in a pot-for-one . If you are restless or have trouble sleeping this is a wonderfully calming brew - but only have one as it is also a diuretic!