Sunday, July 20, 2008

Blue Stocking Bee Balm

Bee Balm, or Monarda, is an excellent companion plant for the garden. A member of the Mint family, it spreads easily – unless you have the blue kind of this normally red flower. We have ‘blue stocking’ – it resents being asked to be blue and spread at the same time. But, as you can see, it’s still okay with attracting beneficial insects, and it doesn’t seem to mind dry clay soil. So really, who can complain?

Bee Balm is a lesser used herb, but has excellent antiseptic properties. It is a source of Thymol (like in Listerine) and can be used as a mouthwash and to treat minor scrapes. It’s also edible. Use the flowers in salads – I find you need to break them up or people usually pick them all out too easily.
I am informed that Monarda is excellent for seasoning wild game but have not tried this myself -- the wildest games I have in the kitchen are usually board games. ;-)

Also known as Oswago Tea or Bergamot, Bee Balm make an excellent tea. Blend with black tea for an earl-greyish taste, although this is not the Bergamot of Earl Grey fame; or go straight Bee Balmy for curing headaches and "the vapors." Just breathing the steam of boiling Bee Balm is said to be good for a sore throat, and it certainly smells nice enough to be worth trying that the next time I have a sore throat.

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