The Dr. Seuss like qualities of the Monarda flower remind me of a world filled with Once-ler’s and Truffula trees. Where cats jump out of hats and Green Eggs are a staple for breakfast. If you haven’t read any Dr. Seuss books, seize the moment, you won’t be disappointed. Or, perhaps, instead, drown yourself in the essence of this beautiful bloom.
Monarda Didyma, Bee Balm or Bergamot will capture your heart at the first spring sighting. As the leaves begin to move upwards from the ground, you will find yourself cheerleading along side this perennial in great anticipation of the fiery red ball that is to come. There are actually several different varieties of Monarda. Here we will examine Didyma and Fistulosa. The only distinction between the two happens to be the color. One is red and one is light purple.
Bee Balm, a preferred name, is a part of the mint family. It is anti-microbial and soothing for many ailments–cold, flu, upper respiratory issues, digestion problems, fever and cough. It can be applied topically as a poultice for skin problems and wounds. The dried leaves and flowers can be drunk as a tea and is very nourishing! For the sweet tooth out there, infuse raw honey with the fresh flower. Not only is it beautiful to look at but it tastes delicious. Your body will thank you. Make a fresh pesto out of the leaves or chop up a fresh flower to put in your salad, the bright red petals poking out amidst your greens is an eye catcher. Some call the flavor peppery, I wouldn’t agree. To me it me it has hints of sage and oregano, the taste falling on the middle of the palate with a fullness like that of a ripened grapefruit.
Dirty Handed Hint: Infusing the flowers in raw honey is easy. Just put roughly chopped flowers in a jar and pour honey over it. Let it sit for a few months and it will be ready for cold and flu season! You can strain or keep the flowers, it’s up to you! I like munching on them, they taste like candy.
The best time to harvest the leaves is before the plant blooms, usually in July. It is a medium sized shrub that can reach up to four feet tall, in my experience. If you cut the flowers for medicine, be sure to leave a few for the hummingbirds, there is a great love affair to witness there. If you are lucky, after you harvest, you might be able to get a second blooming.
In my garden, Monarda Didyma throws me off my track. I can’t help but visit with this plant often, particularly when it is in full show. Wether it is seen from up close or from afar, a sighting guarantees a moment of awe. Interspersed amongst the vibrant purple blooms of my Centaura Montana, it is quite the display–like fire works on the horizon.