Lemon is a favourite cake flavour, but if you want to avoid buying lemons that have been shipped across, the perfect alternative could be growing right outside your door.
Lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) is a pretty plant with fresh, bright green leaves, clothing itself in tiny, white flower spikes in summer.
Use the leaves to make a syrup that can be drizzled over a warm sponge cake for that wonderful lemon flavour. I’ll admit, it’s not quite as sharp as traditional lemons but it does the job very well.
Lemon verbena syrup:
- simply put equal amounts of water and caster sugar over a low heat to dissolve
- add a good handful of lemon verbena leaves and simmer for 2-3 minutes
- turn off the heat and leave to infuse for about another 10 mins
- decant into a container before it thickens, store in the fridge for about 3 weeks.
Lemon verbena grows well in my garden and it’s survived happily for years in well drained soil in a sunny position, but it’s growth is slow after a very cold winter, so I also have a couple of plants in pots and store them in the greenhouse over winter as back-up.
Rumour has it that the syrup is a good ingredient for cocktails too.
all images: Jill Anderson