Herb Profile: Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender is a newer addition to herbal offerings, and after working with it at other farms I knew we had to have it! Most people only think of lavender as a scent, and it's a shame because the whole plant itself is lovely and delicious for many more of its attributes. In fact, the scent that most people associate with lavender can have some issues. For starters, the fractionated perfume-grade oil as well as steam-distilled, highly concentrated essential oils can cause allergic reactions and skin irritations in some people. There are also fully artificial perfume oils created to mimic lavender, complicating the issue even further. However, none of these are associated with REAL lavender, in whole form, as you might receive in a CSA box from your local farmer! Enjoy its refreshing flavor in a variety of ways, used like a softer, sweeter rosemary.
Lavender is considered a medicinal as well as culinary herb. Like its many mint family cousins, it has anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, and analgesic properties. It aids in digestion and helps some who struggle with depression and anxiety. It can also be used externally for skin ailments.
Lavender is best used fresh within 2-3 days, or dried. Keep in the fridge in a water-proof container until use, or hang to dry in a well-ventilated area right away.
I prefer cooking with dried lavender, simply because it's easy to remove the crisp dried leaves from the stems by rubbing them together. This can go anywhere you would use dried thyme, rosemary, oregano, etc. Teas are also made from the dried plant. Fresh lavender can be used whole and fresh to infuse honey, butter, oil, vinegar, or soups.
Slide two fingers down the stem from the top to remove the leaves and finely chop. If infusing into a liquid and a light flavoring is desired, you can simply put the whole stems into the vessel and pour the liquid over it.
Use 1 tsp per serving for tea, or mix into dishes as a spice. Don't be afraid to be creative with flavors!
The Gift of Healing Herbs by Robin Rose Bennett
The Rodale Encyclopida of Herbs
Asparagus to Zucchini by Fairshare Coalition
Produce: A fruit and vegetable lover's guide by Bruce Beck
Our own experience!