Lemon balm is everywhere this week. Out running I spotted a patch in a deserted lawn, another growing between tree roots, a third creeping up a garden wall. There’s so much of it and it’s so green and becoming that I had no choice but to pluck off some leaves and do something — anything — with it.

The cookbooks make lemon balm out to be a delightful, versatile, carefree ingredient. I find it tricky, though: the leaves we get deliver a good hit of citrus with a noticeably bitter edge. So my repertoire has been limited to mincing it with chives then sprinkling over roasted beets drizzled with olive oil, as per Jerry Traunfeld.

I was determined to expand my boundaries, however, and this time opted for a curried beet soup with apples and ginger in the base. The verdict? The bitter lemon was a nice counterpoint to the sweet, earthy beets but the soup was a serious production in the midst of a busy afternoon. Next time I’ll try it with fish or a fruit salsa, or maybe just leave it for the entertainment and pleasure of the bees.

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