Tough as nails this shrub may be, but the leaves have a lemony fragrance and taste that is gentle, not at all harsh or grassy. You can make lemon verbena ice cream or simple syrup, you can put the leaves in salad or flavor vinegar with them. I like to make lemon verbena iced tea, adding a sprig of mint for depth of flavor.
Lemon Verbena Mint Iced Tea
Put water on to boil. Pick leaves off the plant, using about four leaves per cup of water. Pick a sprig of mint if you have some. Wash the leaves and chop them. When the water boils, take it off the heat and add the mint and lemon verbena. Let it steep ten minutes. Pour through a strainer into another vessel, like a pitcher. Pour over ice. Hold it up to the sun and admire its light yellow-green color. Drink.
This particular lemon verbena? It's one of those plants whose success I had nothing to do with. Gardening is like that. You can fuss over something for ages and it dies or, worse, it stays alive but never grows, and generally looks wan and spindly for months, giving you the evil eye. Or you can ignore a plant and it flourishes like this riotous lemon verbena. In July I found a gloriously healthy butternut squash plant growing in my compost, with a big old flower. It was growing sort of upside down-ish and all contorted, so I transplanted it to what I thought of as "a better place," the vegetable garden, where it dramatically wilted and died within three days.
I tell you, plants these days!