I know, when you think cooking herb, lemon verbena is not the first plant that comes to mind. A lot of people, especially here, up north, where it is not winter hardy, may not be familiar with this wonderful plant, so I'll do the honors.

It has the fragrance and taste of lemon zest, with just a hint of green herb, and it can be used in any recipe that asks for lemon flavor, from meat stews and salads to fish dishes, candy or sophisticated desserts.

It makes a very pleasant tea all by itself, just steeped in water with nothing else added in. It is lemony, refreshing and a little spicy, and it is supposed to settle an upset stomach, although I didn't have the opportunity to verify that.

The plant is not a showy one, but you'll recognize it immediately because it releases a strong lemon scent the second you brush against it, the scent that is its trademark and made it a staple of perfumers' shops.

It is not often that a plant can span the whole range between soap and haute cuisine, but lemon verbena is one of them.

Much like lemon balm, it loses some of its potency when dried, so use fresh whenever possible. The fresh leaves' scent is very strong, a little goes a long way, the dry powder is more subtle.

It likes warmth and sunshine and it will grow very big in zones nine and above, where it can be planted outdoors, but its growth is compact, manageable and attractive.

Author's Bio: 

Main Areas: Garden Writing; Sustainable Gardening; Homegrown Harvest
Published Books: “Terra Two”; “Generations”; "The Plant - A Steampunk Story"; "Letters to Lelia"; "Fair"; "Door Number Eight"
Career Focus: Author; Consummate Gardener;
Affiliation: All Year Garden; The Weekly Gardener; Francis Rosenfeld's Blog

I started blogging in 2010, to share the joy of growing all things green and the beauty of the garden through the seasons. Two garden blogs were born: allyeargarden.com and theweeklygardener.com, a periodical that followed it one year later. I wanted to assemble an informal compendium of the things I learned from my grandfather, wonderful books, educational websites, and my own experience, in the hope that other people might use it in their own gardening practice.