The purple color and sweet fragrance makes lavender a popular ingredient in bath and relaxation products, but lavender has a 2,500-year history in cooking.
It has been used in teas to help cure headaches and added to honey for use in baked foods. Lavender was even used as a remedy for the Great Plague during the 17th century.
Lavender is related to rosemary and mint. Its flowers are various shades of purple and the leaves are green to grey. Lavender pairs well with oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, and savory. It can be used much the same as rosemary in meat marinades and recipes for baked goods. While lavender is not part of traditional French provincial cooking, it is frequently included in the French Herbes de Provence. It adds a slight floral note to the seasoning blend.
Although many modern homecooks shy away from its use, lavender flowers and leaves can be used fresh in a variety of recipes. The buds and stems can be used dried. The flavor intensifies, however, in dried form and a little goes a long way. As a result, a light hand is called for when using dried lavender in cooking. Otherwise, your recipe may taste more like Grandma’s perfume than Grandma’s lavender scones!
Not all lavender varieties are the same. Some are mild while others have a more pungent flavor. The milder English varieties like Hidcote, Munstead, and Lady are a good beginning point for homecooks interested in experimenting with lavender. When purchasing lavender for cooking, make sure to select a product labeled for culinary use, or purchase a spice blend like Herbes de Provence.