When we moved into our home two years ago, I planted lavender all across the front of the house because I find it so calming to smell it as I enter the house. Many of lavender’s uses—from herbal sleep remedies to home remedies for headaches—play on the calming aspect of the aroma of the plant. In harvesting my lavender this year, though, I wanted to look at lavender uses in the kitchen because not only do the buds smell wonderful, but they also provide a vibrant floral taste to lots of different foods.
Harvesting and Drying Lavender
I harvested the first crop of flowers from my lavender plant in early June. It was a somewhat difficult task to get into the plants to cut stems for two reasons: bees and a mamma duck.
The bees adore the lavender and the tall hollyhocks behind them. Lavender is one of the best plants for bees. The little pollinators were buzzing and flying about everywhere. I was nervous to reach in around them but calmly sat down by the lavender plants and began cutting. It was really amazing, actually. They flew around me but left me alone. A couple times I cut off a stem with a bee on it and it just came right with the flower into my pile then eventually flew away.
The second issue and more unusual issue was our mamma duck, who had made her nest in the flower bed under the shade of the hollyhocks. Who knows why but she chose this spot to lay her eggs, but she became very territorial and protective of it. When I approached, she started hissing and puffing herself up. I decided she was riskier than the bees and I didn’t even attempt to harvest from the plant directly in front of her.
Using my little clippers, I cut stems about 10 to 12 inches long, until I had a nicely sized bunch then wrapped the ends in string. I cut about 15 bunches then brought them inside to my laundry room, checking to be sure I wasn’t bringing any of those bees in with me! Whether you hang yours inside or out, you need a covered (dry) spot where you can hang the bunches, and they will get airflow on all sides.
Lavender needs to be hung upside down to dry. I chose to use the method of encasing my bunches in brown paper bags then hanging them. The paper is breathable and catches any petals that may fall off as the lavender dries. A clothes drying rack works well to hold the flowers as they dry.
After about three weeks, I unwrapped one of my bunches and checked to see if the buds had become brittle and would fall easily off the stems. They did; so it was time to take the bunches down and harvest my dried buds.
I held the bundle over a large bowl and rubbed the blossoms between my fingers, sending them tumbling down into the bowl. I wish I could somehow capture the smell that filled my kitchen for you at home. I felt so relaxed as I worked. This hit home for me lavender’s use as a calming agent and herbal sleep remedy.
When I finished, I had filled the bottom of a bowl with the dried purple blooms. I picked out any small woody pieces that had fallen in with the flowers and then poured my bounty into a large mason jar for storage.
I had my dried flowers prepared. Now I was ready to delve into lavender uses in the kitchen!
Lavender Uses in the Kitchen
After learning how to make kombucha, the first thing I tried was adding some lavender to a batch of kombucha I was bottling that evening for its second fermentation. I did one bottle with just lavender and another with lavender, rosemary and thyme. After several days of infusing, I popped one open. The lavender had made lots of fizz in the bottle and given the tart drink a nice floral taste. Similar notes on the one with the other herbs, though that had a little more complex flavor. This is one flavor infusion I will keep on my short list and a great lavender use!
Lemon Lavender Cake
There are lots of recipes out there for pound cakes made using lavender. I used one called Lemon Lavender Cake. To make it, I started with a cup of room-temperature butter and two cups of sugar in the mixer. I creamed these until cottony and smooth.
Then I turned the mixer down and added eggs, one at a time, letting them mix in before adding another. The recipe called for four eggs, but I had this whole bowl of tiny pullet eggs in the fridge. I used seven of these.
After scraping the sides, I turned the mixer back up and let it mix for a good minute at medium speed until it resembled thick frosting.
In another bowl, I combined three cups of flour, a half teaspoon each of salt and baking soda. And in a second small bowl, I mixed a tablespoon of lemon zest, the juice of the lemon and one cup of buttermilk.
To make buttermilk: Put 1-2 tablespoons of white vinegar in a measuring cup then fill with regular milk to make one cup. Let sit five minutes and wah-lah… buttermilk!
I turned the mixer to low and added a third of the flower mixture then a third of the buttermilk mixture. Continue alternating until you’ve added everything. Don’t over mix.
Finally, I added a heaping teaspoon of my dried lavender.
I sprayed two pans with cooking spray then divided the batter between them. Into a 325 degree oven they went for about fifty minutes. The glass pan actually needed 55 minutes to cook through; metal was done in 50.
I let them cool for about an hour then made a glaze to top them by mixing together one cup of powdered sugar, a tablespoon of heavy cream and the juice of one lemon. I put the cakes on a cookie sheet and divided the glaze between them, covering them heavily.
These cakes were divine. Enough said.
Blackberry Lavender Popsicles
This last recipe I tried came from the local food magazine Edible Ohio Valley. The Blackberry Lavender Popsicle recipe appeared in the Summer 2016 issue and is also available online. It’s now one of my favorite lavender uses.
To make it, I mixed two cups of blackberries with ¾ cup of sugar in a small saucepan.
After letting it sit about five minutes, I added one tablespoon of my dried lavender then turned on the heat and brought it up to a boil.
Once boiling, I turned the heat down and let it simmer ten minutes then removed from the stove top. Using a masher, I smashed the berries as much as I could.
Next, I added the juice of one lemon and one cup of cold water.
The pan went into the fridge to cool, for about a half hour. Once cooled, I strained the solids out, using a rubber scraper to push down on the mixture to release all the juices.
The remaining liquid was a deep pinkish purple. The solids went out to the chickens, who enjoyed the sweet treat immensely!
I poured my liquid into Dixie cups, like the kind your kids use in the bathroom.
If you set them on a plate, they’re easier to move into and out of the freezer.
I set them in the freezer to solidify. After about two hours (when they were semi-frozen), I pushed wooden Popsicle sticks down into the center of each cup and then left them to freeze solid.
The final product was a sweet taste of summer, with the delicate lavender accentuating the rich berry flavor. They were enjoyed by all mouths in my family – young and old!
What are your favorite lavender uses? Let us know in the comments below.