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Lavender has been long prized for its scent and healing properties. While most of us know about the beauty and fragrance of lavender, somehow we have forgotten that it is indeed a herb. One’s imagination is the only limit when using this herb in food preparation.
I’ll be honest, for some reason this ingredient has long intimidated me, so it was high time to learn how to use it in my recipes. There are a few tricks to incorporating it into your spice cabinet, so I thought I would share what I have learned so far.
Lavender varies in taste just as it varies in appearance and aroma.
All culinary lavender blends very well with citrus, mint, rosemary, sage, berries, fruit, drinks, however one should use some caution to not use to much. Lavender should be a background flavor, not in the forefront, and when used in proper proportion it enhances foods with a distinctive and mysterious flavor, while adding a lovely color to your dish. If you add to much it can taste like perfume and there isn’t much you can do to save the recipe. So the key to using lavender is to experiment; start out with a small amount and add more as you go, working the flavor profile to your liking. As in all herbs, the dried version is more concentrated in flavor.
Delicate, floral, with lemon and citrus notes are a good way to describe the taste of lavender. Interestingly enough, it is part of the mint family. Be sure if you pick and dry your own for culinary use the flowers are pesticide free. You can use the flowers, leaves or stems. I like to use the delicate buds because the taste of the leaves and stems is stronger and can be bitter.
Chopping or bruising the buds will help release the flavor. Chopping can be done easily in a food processor, coffee grinder or spice grinder. If you use a grinder, you may need to add enough volume of flower buds to avoid a purple tornado that just spins and spins, never breaking down. I did a couple of tablespoons at a time and stored it in a dark glass jar out of the light.
When drying lavender, the stems are bunched together with a rubber band or tie that will allow for shrinkage of the stems as they dry . Group about a dozen stems together in each bunch.
Place rubber bands on the stem so it can be attached to hooks for hanging. The lavender bunches are hung upside down (flowers on the bottom) Lavender needs to be dried in a dark, dust-free place with good ventilation to allow for quick and complete drying.
To retain the flavor and fragrance of the dried herb, store it in glass containers with tight-fitting lids so the oils will not escape.
The above recommendations apply only to Healthy, Average sized Adults. Dosage for children, elderly, sick or disabled persons should be a fraction of above dosage. As with any essential oil, ALWAYS try a small amount on a “patch” test to see if skin is reactive before any treatment.