My garden is overflowing with sweet English lavender. Aromatic, beautiful, provincial, easy to grow. When used lightly, lavender adds a subtle, charismatic undertone to the kitchen table. When eaten directly, lavender has slightly pungent, medicinal overtones.
So how do use it in the kitchen? Lavender infused sugar, simple syrup, olive oil…hot lavender teas, steamers, cocoaccinos…you get the idea! But I digress from my original train of thought, which was…
Lavandula Angustifolia, or Sweet English Lavender, is the best garden variety culinary lavender. A perennial with thin, elongated celadon green leaves, off shoots of vivid purple flowers and a sweet sugary scent, this plant adds a pop of color with minimal fuss for both cook and gardener.
There are two ways to take lavender from the garden to the table:
1) Directly – fresh lavender is a perfect fit for dishes subject to heat, such as lavender tea or lavender simple syrup, trim the desired amount of lavender washing and patting dry. Trim the stems being sure to use only the buds. Note: with this method, you can also use the leaves of the plant.
2) Indirectly – dried lavender is best for marinades, infusions or any dish where the lavender itself is not directly subject to heat. Have no fear! Drying lavender is very easy! Here’s how.
- A handful of 5-7 unsprayed lavender flowers
- A rubber band
- A warm, dark, dry room with adequate air circulation
- Trim a batch of flowers from the plant (before the petals are in full bloom opening into little white buds), tie with a rubber band near the end of the stalks, and hang upside down in the garage (or any warm, dark, dry room with adequate air circulation). It's important that the room be dark as this helps preserve the rich velvet color of the petals.
- Leave hanging upside down for 2-4 weeks or until the buds and stalks fill dry, brittle and crunchy to touch. I usually shake the bunch with a gentle tap of the finger. If buds start falling from the stem with a light nudge, then it's ready to go!
- A small batch of lavender counts about 5-7 flowers. A large batch counts 50+ buds.
- 2½ tablespoons granulated caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon unsprayed dried lavender flowers
- Shake both ingredients in an airtight sealed jar. Store in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks, shaking every week, until the jar is brimming with the scent of lavender. Sift out the lavender buds (or leave them in if you prefer). Use as a substitute for granulated sugar.