Bergamot is a member of the mint family. The flowers range from pink and mauve to a rich, vibrant red.
This herb is easy to grow and can be dried to make an aromatic bouquet. The petals taste offer a citrus after-taste or have a peppery quality similar to oregano, depending on variety and where it is grown.
Culinary Uses of Bee Balm
Bergamot can be used as a culinary herb. It is best to use the flowers for tea since the leaves have an oregano flavor. Add a splash of color and deepen the taste of salads by adding a sprinkling of flowers. Use fresh or dried leaves in tomato dishes, and as a substitute for sage in meat stuffing. The fresh leaves add an excellent flavor when added to jellies or lemonade.
Please note that I am NOT a doctor, but I do endorse using bee balm for personal medicinal purposes.
According to Tea Encyclopedia, the leaves and flowers of monarda can be used for colds, reducing fever, soothing sore throats, headaches, insomnia and menstrual pain. A steam inhalation of the plant is used to soothe inflamed mucus membranes. Poultices and compresses are used for skin infections or bruises. It is also good for soothing the digestive tract. The plant has antibacterial properties, which helps to treat infections, and it has antiseptic qualities that fight bacteria, parasites and fungi.
Oswego Tea can be made as a soothing drink to calm nerves and as a relaxing sleep aid, and is often combined with other well-known relaxation herbs such as Valerian and Chamomile for this purpose.
Monarda grows well in full sun but tolerates light shade, and will thrive in any moist, rich soil. It grows up to 2 to 4 feet, depending on the variety. The plants are known to attract butterflies and bees.
Like other members of the mint family, Bee Balm can become invasive, but you can keep your clump contained by dividing the roots in either spring or fall. The plant should be divided every 3 years to keep it tidy. Dig up the root clump in the early spring, discard the inner, older portion, and re-plant the new divisions 12 to 15 inches apart. Stimulate a second flowering in the same season by snipping off the flowers after they bloom. In the fall, prune your Monarda plants to within an inch of the ground. Fertilize in the spring with ample straw and manure.
Bee Balm Tea
1 Tbsp. Fresh bee balm leaves or petals
OR 1 Tsp. dried bee balm leaves or petals
1 C. water
Bring water to a boil. Place bee balm in a cup (or a tea ball and then in a cup). Pour boiling water over bee balm. Add sweetener (optional) to taste. Let steep for 10 minutes.