Lavender for Culinary Use
Answered by: Yvonne Tremblay
Question from: Donna
Posted on: April 07, 2004

I would like to add lavender to some of my recipes but I am not familiar with this herb for culinary use. Are the flowers the only edible part of the plant? How do you dry them for future use? Are fresh flowers used in certain recipes? Could you tell me what herbs are used to make "Herbes du Pays"?

Although lavender is known for its aromatic uses, it is also a wonderful herb to cook with. Lavender is often a component of the classic dried mixture "Herbes de Provence". (For more information and a recipe see http://www.richters.com/show.cgi?page=./QandA/Culinary/20030922-2.html). English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia or Lavandula officinalis) is the variety thought to have the best sweet lavender scent and flavour.

The flower is the part of the plant commonly used in cooking. The fresh leaves are also edible and can be used for tea. The flowers are preferred though as they contain most of the oils and attractive purple hues. Either fresh or dried flowers may be used. If a recipe calls for fresh herbs but you have only dried, use half the amount of dried (or the substitution amount, if given in a recipe). The flavour can be overpowering so don’t overdo it.

Lavender can be used in desserts, to scent sugar, in preserves, vinegar, with fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, mangoes, peaches, pears, apples, oranges, lemon and plum. It can be infused in wine, lemonade or other beverages.

Make sure to use only organically grown lavender (free of herbicides and pesticides). Don’t use the lavender that is sold for cosmetics or potpourri. Richters sells both kinds: an organic foodgrade version and a conventionally-grown non-organic grade for aromatic use. (See http://www.richters.com/Web_store/web_store.cgi?product=X3625 for details on Richters english lavender products.)

To dry your own lavender, I recommend this method. Cut approximately 9-inch (23 cm) stalks. Hold together in a bunch and place heads first into a medium paper bag. Close bag around stalks, still holding on to them; wrap elastic around stalks on outside of bag. Poke holes in bag with sharp knife or point of scissors. Label bag with date; place in cupboard, closet or somewhere dry. Leave for about remove from bag, a week and check. Once flower heads are completely dry (feel them), then remove heads from stalks and place in a jar (or tin) and cover with lid.

Lavender Sugar: In glass jar combine 1 cup (250 mL) superfine sugar with 1/4 cup (50 mL) fresh lavender heads, or 1 tbsp (15 mL) dried. Cover with lid and leave about 2 weeks; shake occasionally. Use in place of regular sugar in cakes, loaves, sweet pastry, sugar cookies or shortbread; add to iced tea or lemonade; sprinkle on top of scones, cookies, pies; mix in with fruit for pies.

If you are want to grow your own lavender, there is good information in the "Q&A" section of the Richters website. Please see http://www.richters.com/qa-search.cgi?search=lavender for information on how to grow lavender and which varieties to grow.

"Herbes du pays" or "herbs of the countryside" refers to the wild herbs of southern France. Typically these include mint, thyme and basil.

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