How to properly use lavender in cooking and baking
The crushing of a sprig of fresh lavender releases a familiar, intense scent, and instant tonic.
Traditionally the determining ingredient in soaps, essential oils and sachets to keep laundry fresh, the fragrant herb makes the most of a culinary moment. But its use as an edible herb is a surprisingly recent development given its ancient pedigree as a perfume and medicine and its provenance (the Mediterranean). For this reason, tips can be helpful. Deployed in moderation and with an appreciation for combinations of ingredients, the use of lavender in foods can add an exciting new dimension to your meals, from cocktails to aromatic desserts.
Along with some more familiar edible woody herbs from the Lamiaceae family, such as oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme, lavender is native to the bushy shores of the Mediterranean. You might suddenly become aware of its penetrating scent when you crush it under your feet as you climb a dry, rocky slope in the Atlas Mountains, across Spain, or southern France. Wild, stubborn plants, adapted to dry summers and wet winters, are very different from the lush perennials that grow in gardens or iconic fields where they are grown for the essential oil market.
Like these basic plants, lavender has cosmetic and medicinal properties that made it dear to the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans (the latter sprinkled it in their baths). They enjoyed the herb long before its phytochemistry could be analyzed: lavender contains linalool, a terpene alcohol that is antimicrobial. This means that in therapeutic doses it can be medicinal, and in concentrated form (like essential oils), toxic if swallowed. When it comes to culinary purposes, relatively small amounts of leaves or flowers are needed and are considered safe, as well as conducive to happy buzzing around the dinner table.
What part can we eat?
Think rosemary: we use its powerful, needle-shaped leaves, while its gorgeous blooms are a seasonal bonus. Lavender leaves are edible and very strongly flavored. If you are using the flowers, remove them from the cob or use them whole. Dried lavender retains its aroma and flavor exceptionally well (like any woody herb) and can be stored for several months in an airtight jar. If you are replacing fresh lavender with dried lavender, increase the amount called for in a recipe by three (one teaspoon of dried herb equals about three teaspoons of fresh).
You can find dried lavender for culinary use available online. It’s also possible to find fresh herbs at farmers’ markets, but you’ll want to ask if they’ve been grown organically. (It’s not difficult to grow your own lavender, but it does need full sun and likes to dry out between waterings.) Keep in mind that nursery plants may have been treated with herbicides, so don’t consume them. not right away, when transplanting into yours. garden area.
How to use lavender in the kitchen
As a starting point for thinking about how to use it with food (or drink), rosemary, again, is a useful guide. It is very hot and suitable for recipes that are either heavily salty (I am thinking of roast leg of lamb), or sweet and fruity (infused in dessert wine with oranges, for example). And then there are the rosemary cocktails. In each case, replace rosemary with lavender and ask your taste buds and nose what they think of it. We predict that they will be very happy.
But we also have a plethora of lavender recipes to help you on your way. Lavender salt is a versatile pantry staple, a seasoning for grilled meats as well as a delicious seasoning for roasted root vegetables. Its counterpart is, of course, lavender sugar! Then there’s lavender honey, which is made by infusing neutral honey with fresh or dried lavender. Use the fragrant honey in sauces and cooking juices, mix it in a soothing cup of hot black tea, shake it with gin and lemon juice (citrus fruits with lavender are usually a great combination), sprinkle it with a drizzle of fruit for dessert, flavor a decadent three-cheese cake with it, and certainly make our lavender honey ice cream.
Use lavender leaves in the honey dressing for a vibrant beet salad. And shake up Thanksgiving forever with Lavender Masala Seasoning for the Big Bird.
How to use it in baking
Blueberry and lavender pies are a summer treat, and lavender frosting is the prettiest topping for party cupcakes. Grapes and lavender also go hand in hand, so try making a luscious lavender grape sorbet where the musk of the Concord grapes is balanced by the floral quality of the herb, and make the grape and lavender pie. worthy of the celebrations.
This story first appeared on www.marthastewart.com
(Main and feature image credit: Jonathan Lovekin)
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