SPICE ADVICE: LAVENDER FLOWERS
Delicate but not at all shy, the scent of lavender has been soothing humans for thousands of years—starting in the Mediterranean, Middle East and India. The plant flowers a famous shade of purple, and has widespread uses both in and out of the kitchen, from cocktail syrups to beauty and home products.
The word Lavender is derived from the Latin word lavare meaning “to bathe” or “to wash.” There are dozens upon dozens of different species of lavender (nearly 40!), all belonging to the mint family. Each plant within this genus may present with its own unique scent. The varying conditions in which the different species may grow plays a huge role in the plant’s fragrance development, creating as many varieties of scents as there are plants.
Lavender has been used to fragrant baths and laundry for more than 2,500 years. It’s scent isn’t just for show though. Beyond making things smell REALLY good, Lavender has been used medicinally all over the world for thousands of years. It’s scent alone is considered medicinal. Studies back the claim that smelling lavender can bring relief to those experiencing stress and anxiety. It’s not just Lavender’s scent that can do you good, however. The plant (mainly in extract/oil form) can be consumed orally or used externally to treat a wide array of ailments including: anxiety, poor sleep, pain, depression, headaches, and dyspepsia. It’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal properties aid in treating fungal and bacterial infections, bug bites, burns, and wounds.
Despite being a well-known herb, Lavender is often overlooked in the culinary world. It’s bitterness and pungency can make cooking with the herb a delicate process. When handled correctly, Lavender can add wonderfully floral notes, and hints of citrus and mint. The flowers and leaves can be used in desserts, cocktails, teas, smoothies, and can even be paired with meat, particularly lamb!