I visited a lavender farm for the first time this year and learned more about this herb and its uses. It has been used by cultures from all over the world for thousands of years including being mentioned in the Song of Solomon as one of the “finest spices”, being buried with pharaohs in their pyramids (side note: did I ever mention that I had considered studying Egyptology in university and that in more recent years, found out that I am descended from an Egyptian pharaoh?), used in early Arabic cookbooks, and prized for medicinal purposes in the early Medieval period.
Lavender has been documented as being used for: a moth repellent (I’ve used it for this myself with great results; I mix it with cedar chips – no more stinky moth balls!), flea repellent, insect repellent, and a sleep aid (I have a lavender oil spray that I use on my pillow and have also had success with putting a small sachet of lavender in my pillow; you can also use lavender in the water for a relaxing bath– the smell is excellent when it comes to soothing and calming, allowing you to drift off to sleep). It is said to have antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties to it and was used in World War I for wound care and to disinfect walls and floors. Applying a drop of lavender oil to an insect bite or sting right after being stung, about 15 drops in 1 T. distilled water applied to a sunburn, and 1-2 drops on a dressing for minor cuts, scrapes, and burns is said to help reduce pain and inflammation.
Uses of lavender in cleaning: Fill one of those tea infusion balls with some lavender and place that down in one of your homemade cleaning solutions to infuse it with the scent. Lavender (about a handful) mixed with a box of baking soda is great for freshening carpets. Let it sit for a few days before using and then sprinkle over carpets, leave for about half an hour , and vacuum up. Mix together a cup of water, a couple teaspoons of witch hazel (or vodka), and some lavender. Let sit several days to infuse and then strain the solution. Put in a spray bottle and it is lovely for freshening linens and upholstery. Be sure to test first on lighter coloured linens as it might stain.
Mark Hillary, Flickr
Uses of lavender in cooking:
Lavender salt: Use 1/2 T. lavender in a cup of coarse salt. Put in a salt grinder so that as you use it the salt and lavender are combined and the lavender releases its natural oils.
Lavender sugar: Put 1 T. lavender in 2 cups sugar and let sit for 3-4 days (or longer) in a glass jar before using. The lavender scent and flavour is infused into the sugar and this can then be used in your baking or sprinkled on fresh fruits.
Roast chicken: Place fresh lavender and rosemary inside the chicken and then close up the opening with a lemon. Rub a little olive oil over the surface of the chicken and sprinkle with sea salt or fleur de sel and freshly cracked peppercorns (I like to use a 4 peppercorn mix).
Herbs de Provence: Combine the following dried herbs: 1/4 c. thyme, 1/4 c. savoury, 3 T. basil, 2 T. crushed bay leaves, 2 T. rosemary, 1 T. lavender. Store this in a jar in a cool dark place and when ready to use, crush to a fine powder. Delicious as a seasoning for lamb or chicken, as part of a honey glaze over pork or roast turkey, and with roasted root vegetables such as onions and garlic. This makes for a delightful rub for meats as well.
Lavender baked goods: I just adore shortbread with a little lavender in it – about a teaspoonful to a recipe is usually about right but you might want to experiment with the quantities to make it to your taste. Try it in other cookies, cakes, or brownies.
Lavender tea: Blend chamomile, mint, and a little lavender together for a lovely tea. Place in a tea infusion ball and let steep for several minutes to infuse the flavour into the water.
Lavender Honey Tea Bread: (adapted from a recipe received at Lavender Blue)
1/2 cup milk
2 T. lavender honey (you can use plain honey if you can’t find this kind – you might want to add a little extra lavender in the recipe if you do)
1 T. plus 1/2 tsp dried lavender buds
2 1/2 cups flour (I use a blend of white and whole wheat)
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T. dried ground lavender
1 cup sour cream (I use fat free)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (1 stick)
3 large eggs
2 T. powdered sugar
Instructions: Heat milk over low in a pan to bring it to a simmer. Add the honey and 1 T. lavender and stir to dissolve the honey. Remove from the heat. Let this pot sit covered for half an hour. Butter and flour a Bundt pan. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground lavender. Strain the milk mixture, discarding the solids. Whisk sour cream into milk mixture. Cream together the 1 cup sugar with the butter. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture, mixing until just smooth. Pour batter into Bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes until a bamboo skewer (or other cake tester) inserted near the middle comes out clean. Cool bread in the pan for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a cake rack and allowing to cool completely. Mix together the powdered sugar and remaining 1/2 tsp. of lavender buds and press this mixture through a colander. Sprinkle or sift over the cake. DELICIOUS!!!
4 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons dried lavender blossoms (kalustyans.com)
4 1/2 cups sparkling water, chilled
Bring the water and sugar to a boil, stirring frequently until the sugar is dissolved. Add the lavender and remove from the heat. Allow this to sit for half an hour. Strain and return it to the pan, boiling again to reduce by half. Allow to cool. For each drink use 3/4 cup of sparkling water and 1/4 cup of lavender syrup.
Check out this yummy sounding Lavender Martini recipe: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/lavender-martini-cocktails-2006
Many thanks to Lavender Blue in Sparta, Ontario for the wonderful experience and the opening up of so many new possibilities now that I have learned more about lavender and its uses.