COOKING WITH LAVENDER
Jim and Dotti Becker of Goodwin Creek Gardens, Williams, Oregon, have generously granted permission to reprint in Subrosa the following article from their newsletter, The Vole's Venue.
Lavender is a highly aromatic herb and its flowers are becoming very popular in cooking. The key to cooking with lavender is to use the right amount; too much is very bitter or perfume-like and can ruin the dish. Experiment with small amounts or use trusted recipes.
It's also important to use the right varieties, as different types have different flavors. We are frequently asked to choose the best lavenders for cooking. The English lavenders (Lavandula angustifolia cultivars) are favorites as they contain the least amount of camphor. Of the English, some of the sweetest are ‘Sachet', 'Irene Doyle' and 'Maillette'. One chef swears by the light pink 'Melissa' as having a very delicate flavor. Though lavandins (Lavandula x intermedia cultivars) such as 'Grosso' and 'Provence' are sometimes used, they have a much more camphoric taste.
You should avoid the French (L. dentata), Spanish (L. stoechas) and green (L.viridis) lavenders for most recipes as these are very piney and camphoric . These lavenders are excellent, however, for grilling and smoking meats, fish, and vegetables. Robert Kourik, in his fine book The Lavender Garden, says that green lavender is "the best of all for grilling, herb breads, and hearty dishes...don't pass this one up."
Lavender flowers can be used fresh or dried. Dried flowers are usually about 3 times more potent as a comparable volume of fresh flowers. Drying flowers for cooking is easy. Pick the spikes when the first few corollas have opened and hang the bunch up in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place. They can be quickly rubbed off of the stems once dried. Store dried flowers in an airtight container. If you buy dried lavender for cooking, make sure they are food-grade, as lavender sold for potpourri or crafts may have been sprayed with pesticides.
The best website we've found for lavender recipes and cooking tips is by Linda Stradley of Cooking America: https://whatscookingamerica.net/Lavender.htm Her recipes include lavender hazelnut bread, lavender tea cookies, and smoked salmon. It's not too late to add a lavender recipe to your holiday menu, so give one of these a try.
Finally, here is one of our favorite recipes. It's for lavender madelines and was given to us by Judy and Don Jensen. Happy Thanksgiving!
a madeline baking pan
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbl dried English lavender flowers
2 drops English lavender essential oil
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1. In a food processor with a chopping blade, process the sugar, flowers, and essential oil until the flowers are finely ground. Put in a zip-lock type bag and let stand 24 hours.
2. The next day, heat oven to 400º. Spray the pan with oil or melted butter. Spray the pan each time you bake.
3. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer at high speed, beat the eggs with the lavender/sugar mixture and vanilla until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).
4. At medium speed, gradually beat in the melted butter. With a wire whisk, fold in the flour.
5. Spoon a scant tablespoon of batter into each mold.
6. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Immediately remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Dust with confectioners sugar just before serving.
"I always urge my students to taste things raw, and keep tasting as they cook. If you don't understand your materials and how they're changing, cooking is like blundering through the subway with the lights off." James Beard, author & chef
Jim & Dotti Becker
Goodwin Creek Gardens
PO Box 83
Williams OR 97544
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