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COOKING WITH LAVENDER FOOD & COOKING ARTICLE

Lavender is an incredibly versatile herb for cooking. In today's upscale restaurants, fresh edible flowers are making a comeback as enhancements to both the flavor and appearance of food. As a member of the same family as many of our most popular herbs, it is not surprising that lavender is edible so it is not surprising that its use in food preparation is also returning. Flowers and leaves can be used fresh, and both buds and stems can be used dried.

The uses of lavender are limited only by your imagination. The flowers add a beautiful color to salads. Lavender can also be substituted for rosemary in many bread recipes.

The spikes and leaves of lavender can be used in most dishes in place of rosemary in most recipes. Use the spikes or stems for making fruit or shrimp kabobs. Just place your favorite fruit on the stems and grill.

Lavender has a sweet, floral flavor, with lemon and citrus notes. Flowers look beautiful and taste good too in a glass of champagne, with chocolate cake, or as a garnish for sorbets or ice creams. Lavender lends itself to savory dishes also, from hearty stews to wine-reduced sauces. Diminutive blooms add a mysterious scent to custards, flans or sorbets. Dried lavender blossoms used in perfumes and pot pourris.

Note:
Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries or garden centers. In many cases these flowers have been treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops.

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Harvesting Fresh Lavender

Harvest flowers as you would fruit, selecting those that look most perfectly ready, with the fullest color, and passing over any that seem wilted or less ripe. The fresher the flower, the more flavorful its taste, so pick your flowers as close as possible to food preparation time. Stem flowers may be put in a glass of water in a cool place until you are ready to use them. All blooms should be thoroughly rinsed. Immerse them in water to remove any insects or soil. Then lay the flowers gently on paper or cloth towels and dab dry, or gently spin dry in a salad spinner. If necessary, layer blooms carefully between moist paper towels in the refrigerator until meal time.

Myths Regarding Lavender

  • Repel the devil by binding the lavender into the shape of a cross and suspending it above doorways as a talisman to ward off witches.
  • As a test for chastity, it was supposed to wither in the hands of the impure.
  • Placed in a man’s right shoe to ensure fidelity.
  • Baked with caraway into small cakes by seamen’s wives to ensure their fidelity.
  • Made into a vinegar and used by robbers to protect themselves from the plague while robbing their helpless victims.

History of Lavender

Lavender has been a favorite herb for centuries. The historic use and recognition of lavender is almost as old the history of man. As an herb, lavender has been in documented use for over 2,500 years. In ancient times lavender was used for mummification and perfume by the Egyptian's, Phoenicians, and peoples of Arabia. The Greeks and the Romans bathed in lavender scented water and it was from the Latin word "lavo" meaning "to wash" that the herb took it's name.

Lavender is often mentioned in the Bible, not by the name lavender but rather by the name used at that time - Spikenard. In the gospel of Luke the writer reports: "Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment."

Perhaps first domesticated by the Arabians, lavender spread across Europe from Greece. Around 600 BC lavender may have come from the Greek Hyeres Islands into France and is now common in France, Spain, Italy and England.

The 'English' lavender varieties were not locally developed in England but rather introduced in the 1600s right around the time the first lavender plants were making their way to the Americas.

Recipes by Linda using Lavender:

This article has been published with the kind permission of Linda Stradley who runs the What's Cooking America web site <click here> and has a new book available called I'll Have What They're Having: Legendary Local Cuisine - for details or to purchase <click here>

© Linda Stradley - What's Cooking America

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