Lavandula, commonly known as lavender, is a plant known by many. Yet it makes me wonder how many people know about its history and use beyond a placeholder for a colorful perennial shrub to grow in a sunny area of the garden.
Planting lavender is relatively simple. The plant requires excellent draining soil and minimal water after planting the first year. Sand or gravel is a preferred mulch rather than organic material. Additionally, little, if any fertilizers are needed for their optimal growth which could range from 1-3 feet tall depending on which variety or specie chosen. The plant blends beautifully with sage, yarrow, rosemary and drought tolerant roses. Deer and rabbits seem to avoid browsing on this purple beauty which makes it beneficial to deter deer from eating more edible plants within close range. Additionally, it aids in pollination by attracting beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies.
Lavender originates from the Mediterranean region and historically dates back well over 2500 years. The Greeks, Romans and Egyptians all employed this plant for various uses such as medicinal healing purposes, bathing and mummification.
Over the years, lavender found its way into teas favored by royalty. Recipes told of its unique flavor when adding colorful petals into pastries, main dishes and salads. The further development of pressed flowers created oils that are still used in soaps, perfumes, essential and infusion oils so popular today that aid in relaxation as well as other healing properties. The oils now claim to repel mosquitoes by either placing the oils in a dish placed near by or dabbing the oil directly to the skin. Dried lavender petals are noted for adding to sachets and potpourri. While I can’t confirm this, it is said to place dry petals along window sills to prevent scorpions from entering the house! My focus would rather be on cut long stemmed flowers that frequently find their way into dry flower arrangements. The fragrance is a delight found to any room for long periods of time.
The many uses of lavender astounds anyone doing research – or so I found out some years ago. I had the pleasure of visiting the lavender fields in England during their harvest season one August during the 90’s Plants were pruned back to half their size. The harvesting machines left neat rows of mounded plants in place while collecting the beautiful fragrant flowers. The gathered flowers found their way into multiple machines that produced the oils found in our soaps and perfumes of today. The private tour didn’t stop with oil production. A bakery/cafe was found on the growing grounds that featured lavender teas, lavender lemonade, cookies, muffins, pound cakes and pies. All treats sported the lavender petals used in culinary recipes – and all culinary recipes use the English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) grown at this site. I learned that this specific lavender carries a light sweet taste pairing so well with lemon or honey and therefore used specifically for culinary purposes.
With that sweetness in mind, let me share an easy recipe to accompany a St Patrick’s evening meal of corn beef and cabbage!
Lemon Lavender Cookies
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg
- 4 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 3 tablespoon honey
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons dried culinary lavender
- Combine butter, sugars, egg and lemon juice in a bowl and beat until well mixed.
- Mix in lemon zest, lavender and honey.
- Add flour, cornstarch and baking soda. Beat on low speed all combined.
- Place a large scoop of dough onto parchment lined cookie sheet spacing 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly and refrigerate for at least an hour before baking.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bake the cookies for about 10-12 minutes. They may appear to be under cooked but will firm up once they cool.
Have a great St. Patrick’s Day!