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Melissa is a plant known for its calming and relaxing properties, widely used as a sedative for nervous and anxiety states. Here are some indications for its cultivation.
- Exposure : sun or half shade.
- Propagation : seed.
- Nutritional requirements : demanding in N.
- Parts of the plant used : leaves.
- Main uses : infusion, essential oil.
Melissa is a perennial herbaceous plant 40-100 cm tall with erect, quadrangular and branching stems. The leaves are pale green, oval, serrated and have a long petiole. They have a lemon scent and a slightly bitter taste. The flowers appear between June and August, pinkish white.
Melissa is a plant present throughout Europe. It grows in cool and slightly shaded places from the plain to 1,000-1,500 m above sea level.
It has high water needs and grows well both in the sun and in the shade. It prefers soils with good water retention capacity, even if it suffers from stagnation. It is quite sensitive to cold, so it likes sheltered places. It does not support prolonged fogs.
A lemon balm plant can remain in production for up to 7-8 years. The soil must be prepared in spring, providing good bottom fertilization using 5 kg of manure or 3 kg of compost per square meter. The seedlings are transplanted between May and June with a density of 8-10 plants / m2 (25-30 cm x 40 cm). Direct seeding is difficult because lemon balm emerges slowly and is not competitive with other herbs.
After transplanting, subsequent watering is necessary to obtain good production.
It is demanding in terms of nitrogen and after each harvest it is advisable to provide a cover fertilizer with organic fertilizers, adding 30-40 units of nitrogen per hectare each time. Fertilization can only be avoided for the product intended for distillation.
Septoria (Septoria melissae). Septoria is manifested by the appearance of dark spots in the basal part of the plants. Instead of performing treatments, it is preferable to harvest in two stages: a first cut is made on healthy vegetation and a second cut to eliminate diseased portions and / or obtain a second quality product.
It is harvested by cutting it very low, at ground level, since the organs responsible for the rhizome are found in the underground part of the plant.
In the first year, only one flower cut is made, generally in the second half of July. In the following years the cuts can be 2 or 3. The first at the beginning of flowering, in June; the second in September. To obtain a third cut, the first cut must be anticipated in pre-flowering.
The first cut allows to obtain a product with an aromatic content 20-25% higher than that of the following cuts.
The fresh product must be handled with care and must be quickly destined for drying or distillation, since the pressure exerted on the leaves and sunlight deteriorates its quality by favoring rapid fermentation.
In 10 square meters planted with lemon balm, 15-20 kg of fresh product can be obtained equal to 3-5 kg of dry product.
Melissa is the ideal base for the preparation of infusions. In the kitchen it can be used to flavor ice cream, soups and condiments.
With its lemon aroma it goes well with fish and seafood dishes.
It can be added mid-cooking while making apple, strawberry or fig jams for new flavors.
The essence of lemon balm is used in perfumery and in the preparation of liqueurs.
Melissa has a calming effect on the nervous system. It can be used as a sedative for anxiety states. In recent centuries, it has been used frequently to calm nervousness.
In 1611, the Discalced Carmelites of France invented melissa water, as a remedy for toothaches, nervous breakdowns and other diseases. The antiseptic water for the Barefoot Carmelites is prepared by cooking 50 g of dried lemon balm leaves in one liter of water for 5 minutes.