Queen of Herbs-Lavender

Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic, and Aromatic

Ah….The fragrance of lavender! Evoking many memories, like wandering through blooming fields of lavender on a hot summer day buzzing with bees. This is one herb that if I were on a desert island, I would want to grow!

My dog enjoys me picking my lavender!

Growing lavender in my garden every year is essential and I find many uses for the fresh and dried flowers, from culinary to sachets, lavender wands, extracts, and wreaths. Scroll down for a lavender honey ice cream recipe and a goat cheese lavender omelette which is divine! Also, learn how to make a fragrant elegant lavender wreath from fresh lavender. To find out out to make lavender scented body butter, go to Making Lavender Scented Body Butter.

There are many different types of lavender, and I only describe two of them. For more information, go to Gardenia.net . You can find the right type of lavender, depending on size, type of bloom, and blooming time, by reading this excellent article.

I am out photographing lavender fields in Washington state, photo by Helen Battersby

English Lavender

English Lavender or Lavendula angustifolia, is easy to grow here in the mid-Atlantic, if you treat it like an annual or short-lived perennial. Surviving the winter can be tricky with our freeze/thaw cycles in Maryland and I plant new plants every year. If some plants make it through the winter, I celebrate! Hardy in USDA zones 5-9, English Lavender is a great edging along a walkway.

This lavender hedge is evergreen, but the homeowner asked me to remove it and replace it with boxwood because the delivery people refused to deliver packages because of the bees when it bloomed!

And if you live in a hot humid area like Maryland, you might want to try a new variety ‘Bridget Chloe’, which is touted to be much more resistant to humid conditions which is prevalent in the mid-Atlantic. With a parentage of ‘Provence’, ‘Bridget Chloe’ is worth a try. I just bought a few plants and will give it a whirl! But I have tried so many new ones that were supposed to be better suited to our conditions, like ‘Phenomenal’ and have lost them every time.

Different types of lavender seen at the Chelsea Flower Show

Also called True Lavender, Lavendula angustifolia, is often associated with the famous purple fields of Provence. Native to the Mediterranean, this plant needs the conditions of sandy poor soil that is common there. The flower colors vary from blue-purple, lavender, violet-blue, white, and pink, depending on the cultivar.

English Lavender comes in white also

Lavender is such a wonderful herb with so many uses, that if you have a well-drained location in full sun with low to moderate fertility, try growing a few plants to have lavender flowers to use in sachets and cooking. The bees will appreciate it also!

 

Herb Garden at Norwick Cathedral has lots of lavender hedges

French Lavender

The French Lavender or Lavendula stoechas, is not hardy for me here in zone 6b. But I pick it up at the nursery when I see it, because it is such a long prolific bloomer and my bees will visit it again and again over several weeks in July. Hardy in zones 8-9, you could try bringing it in for the winter, but it is tough to winter over, even in a greenhouse. Tolerating more humidity than the English Lavender, both the foliage and flowers are very aromatic. A great performer in containers, I expect to get at least two months of blooms during the summer.

White Lavender stoechas, or French Lavender makes a great container plant
The flowers of Lavendula stoechas are winged like little birds
Different types of lavender for sale at a nursery in the UK

Drying lavender is as simple as cutting the flower wands at the base with sharp sheers and rubber banding them in a bunch and hanging in a dark cool spot for a couple of weeks.

Hanging bunches of lavender in my basement
All kinds of pollinators are attracted to the nectar

Making Lavender Wreaths

A fresh lavender wreath made on a wire base

Creating a lavender wreath requires a lot of lavender!….at least a half dozen mature plants are required. One year I had a hedge of 36 plants and had enough to make several wreaths. Cut your lavender when the flowers are just starting to open and show color. Any later, and you will get brown crispy flowers. The base can be a simple coat hanger, but to make life easier, go out to the local craft store and buy a green wire base that has bendable ‘arms’ that clasp the bunches securely.

White & violet lavender at Hampton Court Palace

Use twice as much lavender as you think you will need as the flowers shrink considerably as they dry and could loosen and fall out of the bunches. Hang the completed wreath in a dark cool spot to dry for several weeks and then move to the kitchen so you can break off a few flowers to add to cooking.

Dried lavender wreath
Group your fresh lavender into short bunches and wire together; Then wire them to a heavy wire frame
You need at least a dozen good sized bunches for this wreath of about 15-18 inches

Lavender Honey Ice Cream

The combination of lavender and honey is truly sinful in a creamy ice cream that you can make with local honey and hopefully some fresh or dried lavender from your garden.

Lavender honey ice cream
Lavender honey ice cream

In experimenting with edible flowers, I came across a great recipe for honey lavender ice cream which I have tried several times and it disappeared quickly in my household. It is really delicious and one of the best ice creams I have ever had. Lavender is an unlikely candidate for flavoring ice cream but it works. Go to Edible Flower Palette  and Eat Your Flowers!  to see more uses for edible flowers.

Fresh cut Phenomenal lavender

Lavender Honey Ice Cream

Use a mild flavored honey for this like wildflower or clover; the lighter the color - the milder flavor

Ingredients

  • 2 C Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 C Half-and-half
  • 2/3 C Mild Honey
  • 2 T Dried lavender flowers Take a dried lavender wand and remove the flowers with your hands; they will be brittle
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1/8 t Salt

Instructions

  1. Bring cream, half-and-half, honey, and lavender just to a boil in a 2 quart saucepan over moderate heat; stirring occasionally, then remove from heat. Let steep for 30 minutes.

  2. Pour cream mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl and discard lavender. Return mixture to cleaned saucepan and heat again until just hot.

  3. Whisk together eggs and salt in a large bowl, then add 1 cup of the hot mixture in a slow stream, whisking. Pour into remaining hot cream mixture in saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thick enough to coat back of spoon and it registers 170 to 175 degrees on instant read thermometer, about 5 minutes. Do not let boil!

  4. Pour custard into cleaned bowl and cool completely, stirring occasionally. Chill, covered, until cold, at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight.

  5. Freeze custard in ice cream maker. Transfer mixture into an air tight container and place in freezer to harden.

Steep the lavender flowers in the cream mixture
Removing the paddle from the ice cream maker
The final product of honey lavender ice cream

Goat Cheese and Lavender Omelette

The next recipe for a goat cheese omelette pairs a savory dish with the unexpected floral taste of lavender to make a divine meal anytime of the day. Add some fruit, avocado, and maybe a loaf of crusty garlic bread, and you have a complete meal. For the filling, I used wilted swiss chard, but some defrosted spinach leaves or wilted ones can be added instead. Other great additions would be caramelized onions, ham, or roasted red pepper.

I used an 8 inch cast iron skillet. It makes the perfect sized omelette for one
Add chunks of goat cheese, greens (I used some wilted swiss chard), and your herbs (oregano, thyme, lavender)
Fold the omelette in half when the bottom browns and let the cheese melt for a minute
The interior of the omelette is savory and creamy with the goat cheese

Goat Cheese Omelette with Lavender

Ingredients

  • 1 T Butter
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 2-3 Ounce Fresh spinach or Swiss chard, or frozen and defrosted greens
  • 4 T Goat Cheese, crumbled
  • 1 t Dried lavender flowers
  • 1 t Dried herbs, like oregano, chives, thyme
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Add butter to cast iron skillet and heat until hot

  2. Whisk 3 large eggs in bowl

  3. Add eggs to skillet on high heat and using a spatula fold in edges of egg mixture to let raw egg flow to edges and cook; this process takes about 2- 3 minutes

  4. Once most of eggs are set, add veggies and meat to omelette; these can be sun dried tomatoes, carmelized onions or sweet peppers, swiss chard, spinach, ham/bacon or shredded cheese

  5. Add desired herbs, lavender, and salt and pepper

  6. Let cook for 30 seconds, and then using a pancake turner, fold omelette in half and let cook for another minute.

  7. Remove from skillet and serve with accompaniments, like parsley, or avocado slices or top with salsa

So Many Other Uses

I have made lavender extract by steeping the flowers in vodka! Also, to get rid of old lavender bunches, I add them to the grill fire for an aromatic grill smoke. And of course, we can’t forget adding fragrant lavender flowers to potpourri. I created some potpourri into tulle sachets and added them to a dried flower basket to scent the room.

Potpourri sachets
Added to dried flower arrangements, the sachets will scent your room

 

Old lavender bunches added to the grill makes a great flavor addition to salmon on the grill

Steep lavender flowers in vodka for several weeks and sieve the flowers out for lavender extract

 

 

5 Replies to “Queen of Herbs-Lavender”

  1. I love lavender, so I especially loved this column. Wish I had room for a field of plants! Don’t know when/how much to cut plants back. We live in Millville, DE.

    1. Excellent, as always, Claire. Love the craft ideas and the recipes also. Lavender is a favorite in my apiary too!

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