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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Making Lavender Wreaths
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lavender Honey Ice Cream
Use a mild flavored honey for this like wildflower or clover; the lighter the color - the milder flavor
- 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
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.
Pour cream mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl and discard lavender. Return mixture to cleaned saucepan and heat again until just hot.
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!
Pour custard into cleaned bowl and cool completely, stirring occasionally. Chill, covered, until cold, at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight.
Freeze custard in ice cream maker. Transfer mixture into an air tight container and place in freezer to harden.
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.
Goat Cheese Omelette with Lavender
- 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
Add butter to cast iron skillet and heat until hot
Whisk 3 large eggs in bowl
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
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
Add desired herbs, lavender, and salt and pepper
Let cook for 30 seconds, and then using a pancake turner, fold omelette in half and let cook for another minute.
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.