Cooking with Lavender from Local Growers

By KRISTEN LEE-CHARLSON

Last Saturday I chatted with Paula Scoggins of Paula’s Gardens and Lori Parr, AKA Lavender Lori – both together known as the Lavender Queendome. Paula grows lavender in Paradise and since Lori lost the majority of her 1300 plants to the freeze in October ’09, she and Paula have joined forces to work together on all thingslavender.

Cooking with Lavender

Although people tend to think of perfume and soap when they hear about lavender, its significance as a culinary herb has been valued for centuries. According to Lori,cooking with lavender can take many forms. It can be used in sweet and savory dishes and has a great deal of adaptability.

Culinary lavender belongs to the mint family and can be used similarly. It goes well with fruit, citrus, desserts and meat. Uses culinary lavender to flavor sweet syrups, chocolate and cakes, to reduced balsamic sauces, dry rubs and combinations like Herbs de Provence. It scents desserts and beverages like creme brulee and lemonade and enhances a main course such as lamb.

English lavender is most often used in cooking, along with Provence, which has the lowest camphor and resin content. This depends entirely on your personal taste or specific recipe, whether a sweet light floral or pungent stronger flavor is preferred. Flavor is indicative of which part of the plant or flower is used. The essential oil which imparts the flavor is found in the entire plant. Some chefs use only the fresh leaves, others prefer cooking with lavender flowers. Technically, culinary lavender is actually the flower petal which falls out of the bud as a result of drying. The petal has a lighter attribute than the more familiarbud.

Be on the lookout for the taste of lavender as it is intermingled into the menus of many Missoula restaurants, from ice cream to pizza and everything in-between.

Find the Lavender Queens at the Clark Fork River Market and Paula’s Etsy shop. And, if you’d like to try your hand at using lavender in the kitchen, try this fabulous culinary lavender recipe for lemonade.

LAVENDER LEMONADE

Serves six

Add this luscious lemonade to your summer mix (adults could add a shot of vodka to martini-ize it.)

Ingredients:
2 cups water for steeping
3 1/2 additional cups of water
1/2 cup organic lavender plus a sprig for garnish (English is best)
1cup fresh squeezed organic lemon juice (6 – 7 lemons)
1/2 cup raw local honey

1.  Boil 2 cups water. Pour over lavender.
2.  Cover and steep for 30 minutes.
3.  In a pitcher, strain the steeped lavender water and compost or discard lavender.
4.  Add honey and stir thoroughly.
5.  Add lemon juice and 4 additional cups of water. Stir.
6.  Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.
7.  Add ice and serve with a sprig of lavender for garnish.

Like this blog post by the Heirloom Foodie?  Chances are you’ll also like her post about Local Grass-Finished Beef and Growing Good Eats in the Garden City.

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Kristen has been the publisher of edibleMISSOULA magazine for the past 4 years, a publication celebrating the bounty of local seasonal foods and farming. She is an accomplished chef, caterer and home-cook. As a mother, she is dedicated to educating and empowering others about traditional food preparation and the joy and economy of eating local. She sits on the board of the Community Food & Agriculture Coalition of Missoula County (CFAC) and serves on the Montana Food Systems Council; as well as being a strong advocate for more localized and sustainable food system. She is working on a new venture – the Heirloom Projectexploring traditional foods, farming & modernhomemaking.