LavenderBotanical name: Lavandula augustifolia, Lavandula vera


Common name: English lavender
Family: Labiatae

Parts used: all parts have a fragrance, but the flowers and flower stems are used to extract essential oil

Native Region: indigenous to the mountainous regions of the countries bordering the western Mediterranean; cultivated extensively for its aromatic flowers in parts of France, Italy and England (with the most success).

Botanical Description: Lavender plants are a strongly aromatic shrub and grow 1 to 3 feet tall. The leaves are evergreen and straplike, finely pubescent, with stellate hairs. Leaves are opposite, sessile, entire, linear, blunt. When young leaves are white with dense stellate hairs on both surfaces; their margins strongly revolute; when full grown, 1 1/2 inches long with scattered hairs above, smoothly or finely downy beneath, and margins are only slightly revolute (curled or curved back). Flowers are purplish-pink (lavender colored), produced on terminating blunt spikes at the top of slender, leafless stems from young shoots. Spikes are composed of whorls or rings of flowers, each composed of from 6 – 10 flowers, the lower whorls more distant from one another. The flowers are shortly stalked, three to five together in the axils of rhomboidal, brown, thin, dry bracts. the calyx is tubular and ribbed. Oil glands are visible on the calyx and are the source of the majority of essential oils extracted. The two-lipped corolla is a beautiful bluish-violet color.

Growing Lavender: Lavender is one of the most adaptable sun and warmth-loving plants. It thrives anywhere hardy perennials will grow. It is happiest in light, well-drained soil. Prefers soil not too rich in nitrogen. Good drainage is important. Clean wood ash is a helpful addition to the soil. It can be propagated from seed or from cuttings. In the spring or fall, take cuttings from new growth. You want small stems, pulled with a “heel” from the larger branch (pull quickly downward from the angle of the stem, and the “cutting” will detach with the desired tissue forming the heel). Dust with rooting hormone if available. Set the cuttings into sand or soil. Tend the plants gently, and keep them moist, and when they have rooted, (new top growth is a good sign) pot them into larger containers and fertilize them. In addition, lavenders will layer well in the garden; buried stems will root along their length and can then be dug up, separated from the parent, and replanted on their own.

Harvesting Lavender: Lavender flowers should be harvested just before the blooms open. The flowers will look like fat, purple seeds on a stem. If you miss and must cut them later, be prepared for the flowers to fall off the stems. All the herbals say that the aromatic powers of herbs are strongest when the plant has not yet opened to full bloom (true of most all the blooming herbs), and to cut herbs “in the morning when the plants are perfectly dry.” Do not dry your herbs in the sun. “Dry them quickly,” say the books, but direct sun will cause them to fade, both in color and in intensity. You can spread them out flat to dry if you have unlimited table space. Or tie them in bundles and hang them upside down. Check for mildew.

Uses: Lavender was used in the early days as a condiment and for flavoring dishes to comfort the stomach. Here are a few simple recipes to use your lavender if you don’t have a ton to distill out the essential oil.
Lavender Tea – About 3 tablespoons fresh flowers (half this amount for dried ones) steeped 3-5 minutes in a pint of water just off the boil. This has a pale straw color but is plenty aromatic. You might try combining the lavender with mint leaves, too.
Lavender Vinegar – Use distilled white vinegar. Flavored vinegars and stronger ones will compete with the herb for your senses. Place “some” (say, a small handful) in a modicum (say, a pint) of vinegar. Let stand 4-6 weeks. Use it as a dressing for fruit salads.

Lavender Fruit Salad – Choose your favorite seasonal fresh fruits (no canned fruit cocktail here). Peel them as appropriate, reduce to bite-sized pieces. Combine them in a bowl with 10 or so sprigs of fresh lavender (remember: much less for dried). Let it all chill for a couple of hours. Serve it with a good splash of champagne over the top and lavender pretties in the bowl.

Lavender Jelly
(From _The Forgotten Art of Flower Cookery_)

Ingredients
2 ¼ cups bottled apple juice [I would assume that this requires a clear juice for a clear jelly]
1 cup lavender flowers
3 ½ cups sugar
½ bottle (4 oz.) liquid pectin

Directions
Place apple juice and lavender in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and remove from the heat. Let stand for 15 minutes and strain. Return 2 cups of this juice to the heat, add the sugar, and stirring constantly, bring to a full boil. Stir in the liquid pectin and bring to a rolling boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat, skim off the foam, and pour into jelly glasses with a sprig of jelly in each glass [and seal]. (Makes about 5 medium glasses.)

Lavender Apple Crisp
Add about a tablespoon of fresh (half that if dried) lavender to your favorite apple crisp or deep dish pie recipe. [2]
Herbes de Provence
Makes1/3 cup
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon chervil
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon summer savory
1 teaspoon lavender
1 teaspoon tarragon
1 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon mint
2 powdered or chopped bay leaves
Preparation:
Mix together all of the ingredients and store in a tightly sealed container. [3]

References
1. http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/l/lavend13.html
2. http://www.henriettes-herb.com/faqs/culi-2-15-laven.html
3. http://theepicentre.com/?recipe=herbes-de-provence

Billie Nicholson, Editor
June 2017

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