Bee Balm is a mint-family wildflower native to North America, where it plays an important role as a pollen source for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds and has been used medicinally for immune system support for time immemorial.
At Soul Fire Farm, we grow bee balm as part of the medicinal and sacred herb understory of our jaden lakou ("courtyard garden" in Haitian Kreyòl) where we uplift the brilliance of planting fruit and nut trees and perennial herbs together on agroforestry terraces bound by soil, compost, wood chips, woven branches, and fungal mycelia.
We honor bee balm as a beloved medicine of the Mohican people, original stewards of the land where Soul Fire Farm is located, who were forced westward by Settler colonialism to what is now the Stockbridge Munsee Mohican reservation in Wisconsin. Mohican healer Misty Cook notes in the book Medicine Generations that "#6 is the most commonly used Medicine amongst our people still today. Most everyone I talked to about from our tribe mentioned #6." She notes that they call bee balm "#6" because "it’s that commonly used."
Bee balm, also known as Wild Bergamot, grows wild on parts of the reservation and is steeped as tea for colds, flu, and pain relief. Soul Fire Farm will be donating their proceeds of seed sales to support seed keeping and gardening projects of the Stockbridge Munsee Mohican Nation, members of which hope to visit their ancestral lands and plant seeds at Soul Fire Farm soon.
Also known as Monarda.
Photos by Soul Fire Farm.
Seeds per pack: 75
Germination rate: 92% on 12/29/2020
Planting / harvesting notes
Sow 6-8 weeks before last frost in moist potting soil. Transplant in the garden 12-18" apart in sun or partial shade.
Seed keeping notes
Allow seedheads to dry on the plant. Cut the stalks below the lowest seed clusters. If necessary, dry the seedheads further in the sun on a sheet or table away from moisture and precipitation. When fully dry, whack the seedheads in a bucket, allowing the ripest seed to fall. Sift through strainers to remove the largest chaff, and then winnow off the lighter chaff with your breath, a fan, or the wind.