I was introduced to Lemon Verbena, the herb, just 2 summers ago. Heaven in a plant. The scent of Lemon Verbena is intoxicating. Smoother than some other lemon herb scents, the plant has beautiful, graceful, arching branches.
Wonderful as a simple garnish in a glass of iced tea or as a nice alternative for garnishing desserts of all types. You’ll find yourself planting it just for the ethereal pleasure of caressing its leaves and holding your fingers up for a sniff of sunshine. Add this essential herb to your list right beside basil and tarragon. Mince it up for salsas, sorbets and fruit salads – especially with melons.
Curiousity got the better of me Saturday at the Farmers’ Market as I wondered what would it be like to infuse Lemon Verbena in ice cream? The results were no less magical than the plant itself. The scent, even through the icy cold cream was subtly but tangibly lemon. My mom seemed to think it tasted a bit ‘minty’, and she was right. The same sort of grassy note that peppermint lends to a dish was distinquishable through the dessert. It was more of an effect than a taste.
We sat tasting and talking, trying to determine the best possible accompaniment to the creamy, lemon confection. Several options bubbled up: Lemon Sugar Cookies, Lemon Shortbread Cookies, Oatmeal Cookies (springboard to an oatmeal-Lemon Verbena ice cream sandwich), or perhaps a tuille or a gingersnap. Ooh, maybe warm gingerbread cake…
Alone or with embellishment, this ice cream is worth a try.
Lemon Verbena Ice Cream
1 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk or 1/2 & 1/2
4-6 sprigs lemon verbena, washed and dried
2 cups heavy cream
Whisk together the sugar, eggs and milk. Heat over medium flame until the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon. Gently submerge the sprigs of Lemon Verbena into the hot custard and chill until very cold. Stir occasionally to speed the cooling. ( An ice bath works well to speed up the chilling process.)
When completely cold, (4 hours or overnight) strain out the Lemon Verbena. Add the cream and freeze in an ice cream freezer. Transfer to the freezer until ready to serve. Makes about 1 quart.