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Cooking with Lavender

The flower long admired for its soothing fragrance adds a delicate flavor to surprising dishes.

By Erin McKay

(Page 2 of 2)

Melissa lavender
Courtesy Lavender at Stonegate
Melissa, an English lavender, is the No. 1 choice of the cooks at Purple Haze in Washington.
Cooking with Lavender
On the Valley View Lavender Farm website, Alan and Peggy Armstrong say culinary lavender can be substituted in any recipe that calls for rosemary, thyme or mint. Pointing out that lavender is not an in-your-face flavor, they say it should leave a taste in your mouth after you swallow. In other words, culinary lavender should play a supporting role. Likewise, Vannucci-Downs advises cooks to be very patient when using culinary lavender.

“Go lightly,” she suggests.

According to Cleveland, recipes calling for lavender flowers are really referring to the lavender buds. You can cook with either fresh or dried lavender. However, because the flavor of dried herbs is more intense than fresh, use smaller amounts of dried. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh lavender, you should use 1 teaspoon of dried. Also, the fresher the lavender, the milder its flavor and the more you can use in cooking.

“The key to cooking with lavender is to use it as a background flavor,” Cleveland states. “It’s not supposed to overpower your dish.”
Ford concurs: “Less is more, for sure.”

Secrets of the Lavender Trade
Probably the best recipe for success when starting out with culinary lavender is to keep it simple. The Purple Haze Lavender Farm’s website offers this advice: 

“A most appealing and easy way to cook with lavender is to create a lavender sugar. In a clean coffee mill, place the buds of two lavender flowers in with 2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar. Grind these together until a fine sugar is created. This breaks apart the lavender buds and releases their essential oils into the sugar. Store this fragrant sugar in an airtight container in the freezer to use throughout the year. Once you have this in your pantry, you can experiment with adding this flavored sugar to baking. Other methods of introducing the flavor are to steep lavender flowers in warm milk, cream or sugar syrups.” 

Sauvie Island Lavender Farm offers lavender-infused salts, sugars and teas. To use the lavender-salt rub, pat it into the meat, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for three hours before cooking. What could be simpler? Except, maybe, Cleveland’s favorite lavender recipe: To one box of blueberry muffin mix, add 1 teaspoon of lavender buds. Bake as directed.

As you become more adept at showcasing lavender’s flavor, don’t forget its physical attributes. Smith recommends “crystallizing” lavender buds to use as a garnish.

 Finally, remember that humans aren’t the only ones who appreciate lavender.

“My dogs love Clint’s Lavender Dog Biscuits,” Smith says—which calls to mind another 1960s relic—a pop song with a line about Sam, a seemingly silly dog with a penchant for purple flowers. Considering lavender’s culinary attributes, Sam wasn’t so silly after all.

For more lavender recipes, see the May/June 2010 issue of Hobby Farm Home.

About the Author: Erin McKay lives on a small acreage in McElmo Canyon, Colo. She plans to landscape and cook with lavender this summer.

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Cooking with Lavender

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Reader Comments
This article has made me want to go out and try planting a few lavender plants of my own.
Green Horn, Indianapolis, IN
Posted: 4/22/2010 7:42:38 AM
My secret ingredient for elk is lavender pepper. Lavender compliments elk meat very nicely!
Janice, Colorado Springs, CO
Posted: 4/3/2010 4:39:57 PM
Thanks for the article, very important to get the right type of lavender for cooking. Melissa makes a great ice cream, used with orange peel, it is superb. The advice to "go ligthly" is exactly right-if you give people time to get used to the flavor they will grow to love it.
Ellen, Northridge, CA
Posted: 4/2/2010 2:47:37 PM
Wonderful article. Must buy some lavendar for my garden this year. Also, Behive's "Barely Buzzed" cheese is Great!
Sherry, Ogden, UT
Posted: 3/23/2010 3:22:58 PM
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