Saturday, November 1, 2008

Lemon Verbena

I have fond memories of lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) from my first gardening internship at Filoli Gardens in Woodside, California. When I was there, a 4 foot shrub stood outside the northwest corner of the tea house. Brushing past it would release a fantastic calming scent similiar to lemongrass, but not as biting. The thin, light-green leaves in whorls of three (hence the species name) make up the airy branches. In late summer tiny sprays of white flowers graced their ends.

I'm lucky I saved some issues of Kitchen Gardener after a post-college paper purge. This little gem of a magazine by Tauton's when out of print in 2000. Boy was I bummed when an issue of Fine Gardening showed up in my mailbox instead.

One issue I still have features lemon verbena complete with recipes. I made the lemon verbena pound cake for a friend's birthday party and it was a hit. It's all about the fancy bundt pan I have--it can make a mix-cake from a box look elegant!

A bird's eye view of the cake.

You can take any pound cake recipe and add a couple tablespoons of lemon juice and zest to give it a lemon flavor. Before you pour the batter into the buttered bundt pan, take fresh lemon verbena leaves and arrange them in a pattern in the pan. The butter will help them stick to the sides.

Once the cake is baked, cooled, and transferred to a plate, you can make a sauce with more fresh lemon verbena leaves, sugar, butter, a touch of flour, and lemon juice. Strain out the leaves before pouring over the cake. Voila! A beautiful and refreshing dessert that will chase your winter blues away.

With the finishing touches--birthday candles!

Late fall is a good time to make this cake because it coincides with you bringing in your lemon verbena plant and taking a few cuttings. Unless you live in a more mild climate, you don't want your plant to take a hit by that first frost of the season.


I Wonder Woman said...

Could you substitute lemon balm? It came along for the ride when I transplanted some mint from my grandma's yard. I didn't think anything could be more vigorous than mint, but this is! The cake looks scrumptious!

Bridget Lamp said...

You could definitely try lemon balm instead. With both, remove the leaves before you eat the cake!

primrozie said...

The same thing happened to me with my Organic Gardening subscription quite a few years ago with something I think they called Organic Living? Something like that. I did get my original subscription back after complaining. Didn't National Gardening have a magazine also years ago? Just when ya get to liking something ~ pfft, there it goes.

At least there's other goodies out there. You did get a lot of snow. We've had some here in PA, but not like we're used to yet.

I've got my 2009 garden planned and ordered. Still working out some of the plan. I had a lot of seeds left from last year but I'm getting a few newbies.

Have a great New Year!