Culinary Lavender’s is most often considered native to the Mediterranean region but its natural range is in Arabia, the Canary Islands, Eastern Africa, India and Southern Europe. Lavender’s popularity in cooking extends to both savory and sweet dishes.
Our Lavender is sourced in France and can quickly overpower a recipe so use sparingly. This is especially true when using to marinate meats. Long marinating results in an unacceptable flavor. Lavender has an intense, spicy and sweetly floral aroma with mint and lemon undertones. The taste has a touch of camphor with a hint of bitterness. It has also been described as having the intriguing appeal of a good wine’s bouquet.
Typically the dried buds (also called flowers) are used for cooking although some chefs will also use the leaves. The essential oil of the Lavender Herb is only found in the buds.
Culinary Lavender flowers are most commonly found in dessert recipes, but as you become more comfortable cooking with this herb, you’ll quickly find that it is also a spectacular addition to savory foods. Lavender, like rosemary, adds a robust flavor to roasted meats and is particularly good with chicken, lamb, pheasant and rabbit.
In France, Lavender is used in combination with the Mediterranean herbs thyme, savory and rosemary in a savory blend called Herbs de Provence. In Morocco it may be found in some recipes of Ras El Hanout.
For use in desserts we like to grind a few Lavender flowers along with some sugar into a fine powder called Lavender Sugar – this provides for optimum flavor as the grinding process breaks down the buds while the sugar absorbs the aromatic essential oils. This is especially good with black and red fruits such as blackberries, blueberries, cherries, plums and strawberries.
Lavender works well in combination with marjoram, Mediterranean oregano, parsley, rosemary, savory and thyme.
Some like to scatter the petals over cake as a decoration. You can also experiment with this flavor by steeping the lavender flowers in warm milk, cream, sugar syrups or wine to flavor desserts or sorbets. Lavender homemade ice cream is heavenly and we have also enjoyed it in chocolate mousse.
Helpful hint: Be sure that if you are cooking with Lavender that you are using a culinary grade lavender. Do not buy lavender that you are going to cook with from a craft shop as craft lavender typically contains high levels of toxic pesticides.