Stirring up memories
Lavender—Good Enough to Eat
August 3, 2005
mother sprinkled a tiny amount of Yardley’s English Lavender talcum onto
the sheets as she ironed them.
(Yes, my mother ironed the sheets—even the children’s.) Maybe that’s why I love it
so. The fragrance is so clean, so
fresh. I can approximate
Mother’s sheets by tossing dried lavender blossoms tied up in a
handkerchief in the dryer. (No, I
don’t iron my sheets. I
don’t hang them out to dry either.
I wish I did.)
I love the
of lavender in full bloom covering a rocky hillside in Provence and the familiar, clean tang
breeze sweeps across it. And
neat bushes lining the borders of an English herb garden, I love that too.
I love it
I’ve tried to grow it here in a climate that is anything but right. Too much sun. Too hot. Too humid. But I’ve tried. It has not been a total failure. I’ve been able to keep it going in
a pot. I had really good luck
a cutting from the lavender that Gloria Coppinger
had going at the Firehouse for a while.
It bushed right up and bloomed away—for a couple of years, and
This spring we
visited the wine country of California.
Only it will never be the wine country again. It’s lavender country for me. The hills, the fields were all in
flowers. I fell in love all over
again. Next spring. I’m planting it again.
I want it
this time. So once home, I called
Master Gardener Lisa Reeves. She knows herbs, and she knows how
grow them. Lisa
confirmed that she does, indeed, grow lavender right here in Decatur
County. She gave some tips. She grows it in “bright
shade.” This she tells
shade that is not too dense, something like the shade under a tall pine
tree. Lavender likes light but not
our hot summer sunlight. She
suggests using French lavender rather than English. Lavandular dentata does well for
her. (That means ‘lavender
with a tooth-like edge.’)
“Check the label,”
she told me. She added that she mulches
it heavily but does use any special fertilizer or chemicals. If some dies back because of heat
humidity, she prunes off the dead
branches. It usually comes back
with cooler weather.
I asked Lisa if she cooks with lavender. She does. I have
known about culinary lavender, and used it occasionally. But on the California
trip we dropped by a farmers market in Napa. There was lavender aplenty: soap, perfume, bath salts, creams,
lotions—and a cookbook. Now
I’m off again cooking with lavender.
If you are
grow your own lavender, and you don’t use pesticides, it’s probably
fine to use lavender from the garden for cooking. But your best and safest bet is to
purchase culinary lavender. In Tallahassee you can get it at New Leaf Market (on Appalachee Parkway),
Cluster and Hops (on North Monroe) and at
Joie de Vivre (on Market
Possibly the best
lavender recipe is also about the easiest, and perfect on hot summer
1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers
1 cup boiling water
the lavender in the water until it is cool. Strain. Use as part of the water in your
favorite lemonade recipe. I use the
easy approach and use a no-sugar mix, but it’s as good with frozen
concentrate (nice when it’s pink) or, maybe better, from scratch. And
better if you put a couple of stalks of fresh mint in the boiling water along
with the lavender.
new cookbook is full of recipes for lavender and salmon—seems they are a
natural go-together. But I adapted
one of my favorite salmon recipes that calls for maple syrup by using
lavender-flavored honey. It’s
Lavender honey-roast salmon
two teaspoons (or more, to taste) of ground or finely chopped lavender into
1/2-cup honey. Let sit for several
salmon fillets into a plastic bag with the lavender honey. Add a small amount of hot water if
honey seems too thick.
the bag and place in the refrigerator overnight.
the oven to the highest baking temperature (around 450 degrees). Remove the salmon from the bag and
gently, but don’t remove all of the marinade. Place in a shallow pan and bake for 8 to
10 minutes depending on the thickness of the filet. Serve with lavender-lemon sauce.
1/2-cup mayonnaise (low-fat is okay) with 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and 1
teaspoon ground or finely chopped lavender.
Lisa reminded me that lavender is the “secret
ingredient” in the delicious herbes de Provence blend. I had forgotten that. I usually buy my blend, but it’s
easy to put together at home and almost as good if you leave the
Herbes de Provence
3 tablespoons dried lavender
flowers (light chopped)
3 tablespoons dried marjoram or
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
all the ingredients together then place in a jar with a tight fitting lid.
Store in a dark cool place. The mix
will last indefinitely, but is best used within a year. Because I love rosemary, I add extra.
asked Lisa to share her lavender
cooking secrets. This is her
favorite lavender recipe.
1 1/2 cups (3/4 pound) butter, at room
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons very finely chopped lavender
flowers (fresh or dried)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
2 1/3 cups flour
1/ 2cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Cover bottoms of two
baking sheets with parchment or brown paper. In a large bowl, cream together the
butter, sugar, lavender and mint with an electric mixer. Mix until light and fluffy, about 3
Add flour, cornstarch
and salt and beat until incorporated.
Divide dough in half.
Flatten into squares and wrap in plastic. Chill until firm.
On a floured board,
or pat out each square to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Cut the dough into 1 1/2 inch squares or
rounds. Transfer to baking sheets,
spacing cookies about 1 inch apart.
Prick each cookie several times with a fork. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until pale golden
(do not brown). Cool slightly, then
transfer to a rack. You can
sprinkle them with a lavender powered sugar if you would like. Makes about 4 dozen.
To make lavender sugar,
mix 2 tablespoons of fresh lavender flowers, if you are lucky enough to have
them, or 1 tablespoon of dried flowers with 1 cup superfine sugar. Place in a
tightly covered glass jar and leave for one or two weeks. Sift the sugar to remove the flowers and
return to the jar.
What to know more about
lavender? Go online and visit www.lavenderguild.org (they wrote the cookbook) and www.napavalleysoapcompany.com for many lavender products.
love to know about your experiences cooking with and growing lavender.
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network