If you think blueberry muffins are great, then try these made with lemon verbena, a perennial herb with a captivating lemon scent. The addition of lemon verbena takes them from ordinary to sublime. For those of you who haven’t used lemon verbena before, here are a few things to know about this aromatic herb.
Lemon verbena is usually grown as an annual in all but the warmest climates where it can reach a height of 8-10 feet. Legend has it that the Spanish explorers carried lemon verbena in ships to Europe from its native habitat in Chile and Argentina, but surely, it was in the summer months these voyages took place as the herb drops its leaves in the early winter months and would have appeared dead to the explorers.
Plant lemon verbena in your garden after all danger of frost has past and begin harvesting the leaves once a week by midsummer. Rapid growths occurs during the hottest weather, so you may want to dry some lemon verbena for use during winter. Cut 8-10 inch stems and hang upside down in a dark, dry, well-ventilated area for about a week, then strip the leaves and store in tightly covered containers. Dried lemon verbena is a popular ingredient in potpourris and keeps its taste and scent for years if properly stored.
Lemon verbena has endless uses in the kitchen where its fragrant leaves are a delicious addition to desserts, beverages and gelatins. Fruit salads come to life with a little chopped lemon verbena sprinkled over or included in a dressing.
Blueberries and lemon verbena have a special affinity and it is in these muffins that their flavors go together so well. A lemon verbena scented sugar sprinkled over each muffin before baking further deepens the lemon flavor. Any leftover sugar can be used for sweetening tea.
Blueberry Lemon Verbena Muffins
6 lemon verbena leaves
1 cup superfine sugar (caster sugar)
3 tablespoons minced fresh lemon verbena leaves
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, washed and drained
1 cup sliced almonds
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Bury lemon verbena leaves in the superfine sugar in a tightly closed container. Let stand overnight before using.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease a 12 cup muffin tin.
In a medium bowl, combine lemon verbena, blueberries and almonds. In a large bowl, mix together flour,baking powder and sugar. In a second medium bowl, whisk together milk, oil and egg. Pour into flour mixture and stir until just blended.
Add the lemon verbena mixture and gently fold together. Batter should not be smooth. Divide the batter into the cups of the muffin tin. Sprinkle each muffin with a little of the lemon-scented sugar.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven and let cool for 2-3 minutes before removing from tin. Serve warm. Makes 12.