Beautiful, fragrant lavender is a European treasure, yet its versatility is just beginning to become appreciated in the American culture. From cooking to cleansing infected wounds, lavender has amazing properties which should be recognized and celebrated.
Lavender has long been one of my favorite herbs, with rosemary as a close second. If you can imagine an herb which tastes like it smells, then lavender is that herb. My first experience with lavender was when I was a teenager. My mother gave me several plants of french lavender, and we created a raised lavender garden in our back yard. When the blooms began to appear, I plucked the fragrant stems and made Victorian style lavender jewelry for my friends. For my father, I created a lavender summer slaw that has yet to be equaled in flavour. Unfortunately, an American black bear who lived on our property decided that the raised lavender bed was a great place to wallow, and he uprooted the plants without a second thought. Thus ended my wonderful lavender garden.
Healing Properties Of Lavender
In years since, I have learned to value lavender oil as a marvelous healing aid. Lavender is perhaps more potent (at least in my experience) of an healing aid than tea tree oil. Bruises treated with lavender oil disappear much faster, and lavender oil applied to cuts or stitches reduces redness and inflammation very quickly. Lavender provides a great home remedy. Long ago, lavender was thought to be almost a cure-all; Victorian ladies used to drink lavender tea to alleviate headaches, in fact.
Cooking With Lavender
Lavender possesses a distinctive flavor; one that is both unique and delicate, interesting yet elusive. Some of the best recipes I have enjoyed have come from lavender flowers. Lavender ice cream is beyond comparison. Basically, you make a custard on the stove-top using lavender tea made from boiling down the flowers. That is then used as the flavoring for the homemade ice cream. I used my father’s old, hand crank ice cream maker to form the ice cream, and it was a fast family favorite.
Lavender pairs especially well with fish, and is a surprising and welcome addition to cupcakes and icing. A bit of culinary lavender gives the chef an old and different flavour with which to surprise the hap-hazard food aficionado.
Speaking of culinary lavender, not all lavenders are created equal. Safe handling practices determine the differences between culinary lavender and perfumery or craft lavender. Be sure the lavender you order is culinary lavender prior to use.
Because lavender stems and flowers dry so nicely, they make a perfect crafting material. Lavender wreaths, candle rings, sachets, and bed pillows are all popular uses for dried lavender. The scent of the lavender flower is thought to promote good dreams and to help relax the body, so lavender pillows are very popular.
Try to think of some more creative uses for your lavender. I strung my unopened buds with a needle to create lavender bracelets and necklaces, which I wore for some time. I made my father hearts from lavender flowers and rolled rose petals for the kitchen. Use a bunch tied with a ribbon in lieu of a bow on packages. Make your own sachets or pillows. Create your own recipes. I tried mixing lavender tea with confectioner’s sugar for a glaze icing, and sprinkling the cake with extra blooms- quite tasty! Lavender is a unique herb that deserves to be rediscovered in America, especially in American cuisine.