VIEW THE MOBILE VERSION of Informational Site Network Informational
Home - List of Herbs and Articles - Rock Garden

Most Viewed Herbs

(archangelica Officinalis Hoffm)
And There Is Pansies That's For Thoughts
Bluebell (wild Hyacinth)
Anemone (wood)
House Leek (crassulaceoe)

Least Viewed Herbs

(archangelica Officinalis Hoffm)
And There Is Pansies That's For Thoughts
Bluebell (wild Hyacinth)
Anemone (wood)
House Leek (crassulaceoe)


(Melissa officinalis, Linn.), a perennial herb of the natural
order Labiatae. The popular name is a contraction of balsam, the plant
having formerly been considered a specific for a host of ailments. The
generic name, Melissa, is the Greek for bee and is an allusion to
the fondness of bees for the abundant nectar of the flowers.

Balm is a native of southern Europe, where it was cultivated as a source
of honey and as a sweet herb more than 2,000 years ago. It is frequently
mentioned in Greek and Latin poetry and prose. Because of its use for
anointing, Shakespeare referred to it in the glorious lines (King
Richard II., act iii, scene 2):

"Not all the water in the rough, rude sea
Can wash the balm from an anointed king."

As a useful plant it received attention from the pen of Pliny. From its
home it has been introduced by man as a garden plant into nearly all
temperate climates throughout the world, and is often found as an escape
from gardens where introduced--occasionally in this role in the earliest
settled of the United States. Very few well-marked varieties have been
produced. A variegated one, now grown for ornament as well as for
culinary purposes, is probably the same as that mentioned by Mawe in

Description.--The roots are small and fibrous; the stems, about 18
inches tall, very numerous, erect or spreading, square; the leaves,
green (except as mentioned), broadly ovate with toothed margins,
opposite, rather succulent, highly scented; the flowers, few, whitish,
or purplish, in small, loose, axillary, one-sided clusters borne from
midsummer until late autumn; the seeds very small--more than 50,000 to
the ounce.

Cultivation.--Balm is readily propagated by means of divisions,
layers, cuttings, and by its seeds, which germinate fairly well even
when four years old. Owing to its small size, the seed should be planted
in a seedpan or flat in a greenhouse or hotbed, where all conditions can
be controlled. The soil should be made very fine and friable, the thinly
scattered seeds merely pressed upon the surface with a block or a brick,
and water applied preferably through the bottom of the seedpan, which
may be set in a shallow dish of water until the surface of the soil
begins to appear moist.

When an inch tall the seedlings should be pricked out 2 inches apart in
other, deeper flats and when about 4 inches tall set in the garden about
1 foot asunder in rows about 18 inches apart. When once established they
may be increased readily by the artificial means mentioned. (See page
34.) Ordinary clean cultivation throughout the season, the removal of
dead parts, and care to prevent the plants from spreading unduly, are
the only requisites of cultivation. Preferably the soil should be poor,
rather dry, little if at all enriched and in a sunny place. The foliage
of seedling plants or plants newly spring-set should be ready for use by
midsummer; that of established plants from early spring until late
autumn. For home use and market it should be cured as recommended on
page 25, the leaves being very thinly spread and plentifully supplied
with air because of their succulence. The temperature should be rather

Uses.--The foliage is widely used for flavoring soups, stews, sauces,
and dressings, and, when fresh, to a small extent with salads. Otto or
oil of balm, obtained by aqueous distillation from the "hay," is a pale
yellow, essential and volatile oil highly prized in perfumery for its
lemon-like odor, and is extensively employed for flavoring various

Next: Basil

Previous: Anise

Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 2302