Herbs & Spices
Season for Lavender Available Year Round
Lavender is much more than your favorite color or scent in a lotion. In fact, this flowering plant hailing from the mint family can have as many uses as it does varieties (which are countless). That said, for your culinary exploits, the English variety reigns supreme. It's important to distinguish between herbal lavender and ornamental lavender which are harvested in much different ways. The very famous herbs de provence incorporate lavender and can be used in nearly every dish - from pot roast to ice cream.
How to Buy and Store Lavender
Dried lavender can be purchased at health food stores and some "gourmet" or specialty shops. Make sure not to purchase lavender from a craft shop if you intend to cook with it - unless it specifies that it can be used for food, which is unlikely. Lavender grown for non-food use may contain high levels of toxic pesticides - so you shouldn't buy it anyhow! You can also pick fresh lavender from the wild or grow your own plants, picking them right as the flowers begin to bud when their volatile oils will have the highest concentration, drying them out for a week or two at home, and then you can strip the buds into an airtight glass container where they will store for six months.
How to Cook Lavender
Lavender lends its floral aroma, beautiful color and light sweetness to dishes, while also being slightly bitter. That's why it's important not to overdo it, as you could render your recipe inedible if you do. Add a dash of beautiful color to salads, bread recipes, sugar, coffee or tea. If you're wary of cooking with lavender, think of it as rosemary's sister, using buds in place of where recipes call for rosemary. After removing the buds from the stems, you can use them (the stems) as a basis for kabobs of all kinds. Lavender brings an air of gourmet into any kitchen.
Health Benefits of Lavender
Lavender is commonly known as the herb that relaxes - creating teas, aromas, baths and more that are known to calm the nerves and even induce sleep. From restlessness to moodiness, lavender petals bring our nervous systems into balance. Lavender tea can also be good for curing headaches and faintness. Just ask Queen Elizabeth who drank it copiously to soothe her migraines, among other uses. Studies have corroborated what has long been assumed about lavender: It produces calming, soothing and anticonvulsive effects.
Additionally, lavender oil can be used topically for many things, including fungal infections, burns, wounds, eczema and even acne. It makes a beautiful massage or bath oil, aiding circulatory disorders and rheumatic ailments.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Lavender
It's crucial when shopping for lavender (you're best off growing it yourself!) that you make sure you are buying culinary grade lavender, not the kind made for potpourri. This means the plant has been raised and harvested in a manner that makes it safe for human consumption. Buying certified organic lavender is a good way to make sure it will be safe for your culinary pursuits and has never been treated with pesticides or other unwanted chemicals.