Whole flower buds
Lavender is an herb native to northern Africa and the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean. Lavender is also grown for the production of its essential oil, which comes from the distillation of the flower spikes of certain lavender species. Lavender has been used for hundreds of years for various reasons, which of course, included use of the wonderful fragrance of lavender to freshen up rooms (probably needed then somewhat more than now). Our organic lavender comes from France.
Lavender flower buds are magic. They look great with their small size but nice blue color. Whether you’re using it as a garnish or the main ingredient, lavender lends a subtle floral flavor to sweet or savory dishes. And their fragrance is always a crowd pleaser (of course, you probably want to use a bit of caution so that you do not overwhelm your dish). If you think lavender soap was included in your dish, you went too far..... Just remember that a little goes a long way!
Look up all the Herbes de Provence recipes. Also, sprinkle it virtually on any meat, especially grilled or braised towards the end. We added a few extra recipes that bring out the best of lavender.
Lavender, first domesticated by the Arabians, spread across Europe from Greece. Around 600 BC, domesticated lavender may have come from Greece to France and it is now common in France, Spain, Italy, and England. The lavender varieties that were introduced to England and the Americas in the 1600s became known as 'English' lavender. In Medieval and Renaissance Europe, the washing women were known as "lavenders" and they used lavender to scent drawers and dried the laundry on lavender bushes. Also during this time, lavender was grown in so-called "infirmarian's gardens" in monasteries, along with many other medicinal herbs. According to the German nun Hildegard of Bingen, who lived from 1098-1179, lavender "water,"--a decoration of vodka, gin, or brandy mixed with lavender--is great for migraine headaches.
Its holy reputation may have increased during the Great Plague in London in the 17th century when it was suggested that a bunch of lavender fastened to each wrist would protect the wearer against the deadly disease. Furthermore, grave-robbers were known to wash in Four Thieves Vinegar, which contained lavender, after doing their dirty work; they rarely contracted the disease. In 16th-century France, lavender was also used to resist infection. For example, glove-makers, who were licensed to perfume their wares with lavender, escaped cholera at that time.
European royal history is also filled with stories of lavender use. Charles VI of France demanded lavender-filled pillows wherever he went. Queen Elizabeth I of England required lavender conserve at the royal table. She also wanted fresh lavender flowers available every day of the year, a daunting task for a gardener if you consider the climate of England. Louis XIV also loved lavender and bathed in water scented with it. Queen Victoria used a lavender deodorant, and both Elizabeth I and II used products from the famous lavender company, Yardley and Co. of London.
In ancient times lavender was used for mummification and perfume by the Egyptians, Phoenicians, and peoples of Arabia. Romans used lavender oils for bathing, cooking, and scenting the air, and they most likely gave it the Latin root from which we derive the modern name (either lavare--to wash, or livendula--livid or bluish). The flower's soothing "tonic" qualities, the insect-repellent effects of the strong scent, and the use of the dried plant in smoking mixtures also added to the value of the herb in ancient times.
Lavender is mentioned often in the Bible, not by the name lavender but rather by the name used at that time--spikenard (from the Greek name for lavender, nardus, after the Syrian city Naarda). In the gospel of Luke, the writer reports: "Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment." According to legend, the clothing of baby Jesus absorbed the lavender scent when Mother Mary laid them upon a bush to dry. This may explain why the plant is also regarded as a holy safeguard against evil. In many Christian houses, a cross of lavender was hung over the door for protection.
Lavender and love are an ancient match. Judith anointed herself with perfumes including lavender before seducing Holofernes, the enemy commander. This allowed her to murder him and thus save the City of Jerusalem. The overwhelming power of this seductive scent was also used by Cleopatra to seduce Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. The Queen of Sheba offered spikenard with frankincense and myrrh to King Solomon
Commercially, the plant is grown mainly for the production of essential oil of lavender (nicely flavored for use in balms, salves, perfumes, cosmetics, and topical applications) but it also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and can be used as a natural mosquito repellent. It is believed to also treat anxiety, fungal infections, hair loss, depression, high blood pressure, nausea, menstrual pain, and eczema, none of which uses carry FDA approval.
Look up all the Herbes de Provence recipes. Also, sprinkle it virtually on any meat, especially grilled or braised towards the end.