Lemon verbena leaves are used for cooking and perfume making. Collecting the leaves from a lemon verbena plant can be done during the spring and summer season before the verbena plants die. The leaves can be washed and stored in containers that will last for the rest of the year until more lemon verbena flowers grow the following year. The leaves are easy to prepare and once dried, can also be bottled and given as gifts to culinary friends.
Removing Leaves from the Lemon Verbena
Leaves can easily be pinched from the plant and collected in a small bowl. Remove the leaves from each stalk until you have as many leaves as you want to dry. Do not remove any leaves for drying if they have insect holes in them. After enough leaves are collected, the next step is to wash and dry them.
Washing Lemon Verbena Leaves
The leaves should be placed in a colander and washed thoroughly. Run cool water over the leaves and turn over the leaves in the colander with your fingers several times to remove any dirt and insects that may have clung to the leaves. This may take up to five minutes to do. After the leaves are washed, they are ready to be spread out on a flat surface so they can dry.
Drying Lemon Verbena Leaves
Once the leaves are thoroughly washed, they can be placed on several layers of paper towels for drying. Separate the leaves so they do not stick together on the paper towels. Allow the water to evaporate from the leaves for one day. Change the paper towels to a new layer if necessary to avoid allowing the leaves to reabsorb the dampness from the first layer. Once the leaves are dry, they are ready for the second stage of drying.
Remove the lemon verbena leaves from the paper towels and spread them out on wire cake racks. This will allow the air to circulate around the leaves to speed up the drying procedure. Place the cake racks on the shelf of a dark pantry closet. If the closet is small, leave the door open if possible to allow the air to help dry the leaves. Turn over the leaves every 2 days so they will dry evenly on both sides. The leaves will be dry when one of them is delicate and can crumble easily in your hands.
Storing Lemon Verbena Leaves
Once the leaves are dried, they can be stored in an herbal jar. Herbal jars have lids that screw on tightly and keep the dried herbs for cooking. Never store fresh leaves in an airtight container as they can become mildewed. Take the racks with the dried leaves and pour them onto a dry paper towel. Form a funnel shape at one of the corner of the paper towel, and pour them into the herbal jar. Mark the jar with a label that says “Lemon verbena leaves.” Store the jar with your other dried herbs. The lemon verbena leaves are ready to be used for cooking purposes.