According to the Herbal Academy, “Of all the times of the year we celebrate plants, no other day is quite as magical as the summer solstice.” The solstice occurs annually between June 20th and June 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere, and it marks the first official day of summer, the longest day, and the shortest night of the year. The warm weather, singing birds, and blooming flowers bring hope and joy. “Many ancient cultures have traditionally harvested herbs on this day, believing them to be at their greatest medicinal value.”
Herbs have always played a role in celebrating the change of seasons, and they take center stage at the summer solstice. In ancient European pagan cultures, priests and healers believed herbs attained the peak of their medicinal value on this day, and would harvest them to dry and have available for the rest of the year. Bee balm, calendula, chamomile, chicory, elder, fennel, jewelweed, lavender, meadowsweet, mugwort, mullein, peach leaves, peppermint, red clover, red raspberry, roses, rosehips, rosemary, pineapple sage, St. John’s Wort, thyme, and yarrow are linked to this time of year. Medicine people took advantage of this day to capture the maximum potential of lavender and vervain for banishing worries and St. John’s Wort for bringing sunshine to sorrow.”
Bee Balm (Monarda spp.) is a member of the mint family that grows from 3-5 feet tall on a square, hairy stem. Flowers are made up of 20-50 narrow tubular flowers that vary in color depending on the species. Bee balm can be planted in the spring or in the fall in full sunshine. Space plants 18-24 inches apart in rich, well-draining soil. Bee balm needs good air circulation; otherwise, it can develop mildew on its leaves. Water thoroughly at the time of planting. Bee balm can be used fresh or dried in all types of herbal preparations. Brew the leaves into an aromatic, medicinal tea that tastes similar to mint but milder. Bee Balm combats colds and flu and soothes a sore throat. Herbalist Rosalee de la Floret suggests using bee balm for oral infections of the mouth and digestive tract, discourage fungal growth in and on the body, diffuse the heat of fevers from viral infections, bring on delayed menses, and is great for people who are uptight, nervous, or anxious.
~~ Ginger Winn
Blondies with Bee Balm & Apricots
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 ⅓ cups brown sugar
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup dried apricots
- ½ cup Monarda leaves and/or flowers loosely packed
- 1 ¼ cups unbleached flour
- 1 ¼ cups whole-wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 extra-large eggs
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. When melted, add the brown sugar and stir. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until the brown sugar is thick and syrupy, for about 4 minutes. Stir in the granulated sugar until it is dissolved and remove the pan from the heat to cool; the fat will separate from the sugar.
- Thinly slice the apricots crosswise. Wash, dry, and coarsely chop the Monarda leaves and flowers; there should be about 1/4 cup of chopped herb.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and stir to blend. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture over the apricots and toss to coat them lightly. Whisk the eggs, one at a time, into the warm brown sugar and butter mixture to blend thoroughly. Add the vanilla and stir well.
- Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour and stir until it is just blended. Add the apricots and Monarda and stir until they are just mixed in.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in a preheated oven for 35 minutes, until the top is a deep golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a baking rack before cutting into bars.
The content on this website, memphisherbsociety.org, is written by several contributors and is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. The information should not be used to diagnose, treat or prevent any disease or health illness. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented here. Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits conferred by any foods, supplements, essential oils, or lifestyle changes have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The Memphis Herb Society will not accept responsibility for the actions or consequential results of any action taken by any reader.