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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mélisse -Lemon Balm. Lemon Balm on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Lemon Balm

The other names of Mélisse and Lemon Balm

The other French names for lemon balm include Baume Mélisse and Citronella; in English, the herb’s other names include Citronella, Balsam and Balm Melissa. 

Lemon balm in the French kitchen
Lemon balm is used for salads, marinades, mayonnaise, herb vinegar, fish dishes and fruit salads.   Lemon Balm is also an ingredient of Benedictine, Chartreuse, and other French liquors.  In Asia, lemon grass is a favorite flavoring for soups and sauces.

The problem with calling Mélisse or Lemon Balm Citronella.

Be careful with Mélisse or Lemon Balm being called citronella in either French or English, Citronella oil that keeps away mosquitoes comes from citronella grass whose roots and leaves make  citronella oil.  Do not confuse the plants as that may result in painful or itchy consequences. Behind the misuse of the name are both plant’s lemony smell. The French word for lemon is citron, hence citronella; that created the confusion.

Lemon balm despite its name belongs to the mint family. The green leaves look like large mint leaves and have a mild lemon aroma with an even lighter hint of mint.   The Lemon Balm’s close cousin is the Bergamot mint, in French that is La Menthe Bergamote and it is used to flavor summer drinks and it is also used in some candies, sweets.        

La Menthe Bergamote will be on some menus:

Glace à la Menthe Bergamote – Ice cream flavored with the Bergamot mint.

Lemon Balm on French Menus:

Blanc de Turbot Poudré à la Noisette, Crémeux Du Barry, Cressonnière à la Mélisse – A farm raised turbot filet powdered with grated hazelnut and served with a creamy cabbage sauce and a watercress flavoring itself flavored with lemon balm. (The sauce used in this menu listing “Crémeux Dubarry” is named after Madame Du Barry (Comtesse Du Barry) who was the last Mistress of Louis XVI, the King of France guillotined during the French revolution). Madam Dubarry was always considered to have huge ears or possibly attachments to her wig which made her ears look larger and so many dishes that included cabbage were jokingly named after her.  Madame Du Barry was guillotined during the Revolution’s Terror on 8 December 1793.

Watermelon, lemon juice, and lemon balm.
Crème d'Oseille à la Mélisse  - A creamy sorrel (also called garden sorrel) soup flavored with lemon balm.
Escalope de Foie Gras et Gambas Snackées, Tartare de Mangue à la Mélisse - A round or oval cut of fattened duck liver prepared with jumbo shrimps cut into mouth sized bites and served with a Mango Tartar flavored with lemon balm.
Tea with a blend of 5 different herbs:
rosemary, lemongrass, lemon balm, spearmint, pineapple mint

L'Omble Chevalier du Lac au Jus de Mélisse – Freshwater charr, the fish, from the lake prepared with the juice of lemon balm. This menu listing comes from a hotel restaurant in the village of Volkrange in the department of Moselle in the region of Lorraine. Lorraine became part of the super region of the Grand Est on 1-1-2015 when France reduced the number of mainland regions from 22 to 13. The decision to scale down the number of regions that govern France internally was to cut red tape and reduce the bureaucracy that citizens encounter and save money.   To see how the super region of Grande Est, the Great East, was made up of the regions of Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne, and Lorraine click on the link: France’s Mainland Regions and Their Borders Have Changed.

Rabbit, pork and lemon balm terrine.

Salade de Calamars à la Citronnelle (Pimentée) – A salad of calamari (squid) flavored with lemon balm and lightly spiced.

Ravioles de Tourteaux à la Mélisse – Ravioli made with the white meat of the brown crab flavored with lemon balm.

Sorbet Fraise Mélisse – A strawberry sorbet flavored with lemon balm.

Lemon balm with its light lemon taste with a touch of a mint accent is a combination that makes it a very popular infusion, a tisane, a herbal tea. French homeopathic doctors recommend Lemon Balm for stomach disorders and nervous attacks. In France, the essential oils of the lemon balm’s cousin the bergamot mint are also considered necessary for aromatherapy.
When planting herbs remember that rabbits like lemon balm

I use, with permission, Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages to check on foreign language names for herbs and spices and where possible to make sure that the etymology of the names I am given in French restaurants and food markets is correct.

Below are Gernot Katzer's notes on the etymology of the word balm:
“Balm is a short­ened form of balsam, deriving from the Latin balsamum balsam tree, which was also used for the resin obtained there for (Balm of Mecca). The ultimate source of the word is Old Hebrew boshem (modern bossem) [בשם], which denotes the balsam tree (Commi­phora opo­balsamum syn. Amyris opo­balsamum, Burser­aceae/Rutales) and its resin, but also means fragrance or spice in general. It also appears as busma [ܒܤܡܐ] in the Aramaic New Testament.”
Even before chefs in mainland France were using lemon grass the French Caribbean departments were growing it in their tropical climates; from the Caribbean its popularity spread to Central America under the name citronella where confusion reigns between the two plants called citronella.

Mélisse, lemon balm in the languages of France’s neighbors:

(Catalan -  tarongina, arangí or melissakj). (Dutch - bijenkruid, citroenkruid, citroenmelisse), (German – zitronenmelisse), (Italian – melissa, cedronella, citronella, erba limona), (Spanish - melisa, citronela). 

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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2017.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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