Monday, September 2, 2013

Bee Balm by Trudy Hodges

Bee balm, Monarda didyma, also known by other names such as: Horsemint, and Wild Bergamot is a member of the mint family - Lamiaceae.

Monarda species include annual and perennial herbaceous plants, and occurs in the wild (Mondarda fistulosa around here) as well as a cultivar. Bee balm is a natural source of the antiseptic compound thymol, the primary active ingredient in some commercial mouthwash formulas. Several species, have a long history of use as medicinal plants by Native Americans.

The plant has a flavor described as a spicy oregano, both the flower and the leaves are edible. The leaves can be picked and used fresh or dried in place of oregano, adding spice to meats and sauces. The crushed leaves of all species exude a spicy, fragrant essential oil which many find similar to Bergamot. The flowers can be picked and added to a salad - adding a spicy flavor and bright color.

When picking the plant - whether grown in your own yard or foraged - only pick what you need or a maximum of 1/3 of the plant, leaving the rest for wildlife and reseeding. Bee balm grows well at high altitude, thrives in sun, and moist but well-drained soils.

Monarda is planted to attract hummingbirds, pollinating insects, and insects that control garden pests.

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