Thursday, July 30, 2009

All About Bee Balm

Bee balm is a pretty flower with several names. It is often called bergamot because its scent resembles the Italian bergamot orange which is used in Earl Gray tea. The name monarda comes from Dr Nicholas Monardes of Seville who wrote an herbal on North American flora in 1569.

Traditional medicainal uses for bee balm are for relief of nausea, gas, insomnia and menstrual pain. Another name is Oswego tea which comes from the fact that it was used by Native Americans to treat colds. Bee balm became a popular tea substitute after the Boston Tea Party of 1773.

A delicious tea is easily made by infusing ( pour boiling water over the bee balm and cover with a tight fitting lid) or simmering the leaves and flowers for about 10 minutes.

Harvest the when the flowers form and the flowers when they are fully open. To dry for future use, simply hang small bunches upside down in a warm, dry, dark place. Store in an airtight container to preserve the fabulous scent and flavor.

Bee balm is easily grown in rich, light, moist soil in full sun or partial shade in hot climates. The colors range from vibrant red to pale pink. It doesn't require a lot of attention which is a trait I really appreciate in a plant, and looks beautiful and airy in the border.

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