For a long time the flowers of lavender came from the region of Mévouillon, near Mont Ventoux (the tallest mountain in Provence 1912 metres), and were recognizable by their deep blue colour and their lasting qualities. Quality flowers, reaped when they are in the early stages of blossoming and dried very quickly, bring sweet smells to the homes of many. We can buy these flowers fresh or dried in bouquets or in provencal cloth sachets often at the farmers’ market in the summer or shops all year round.
Lavender is a pretty amazing thing to have in your culinary reserve but it can easily veer toward potpourri-town if you’re not careful. No matter what you plan to do with it, make sure to buy “culinary lavender.” Like coconut oil, lavender is produced for uses other than cooking. Culinary lavender is suitable for consumption while ornamental lavender isn’t (necessarily). And while it probably won’t kill you, just buy the stuff that you’re sure is safe to eat. It’s no fun biting into a piece of cake and coming away with a mouthful of leaves. We like to use lavender as an infusion, so either grind it (say, with sugar for baked goods) or strain it out of a liquid (cream or syrup) before using. You’ll still get great lavender flavor without the bits and pieces in your mouth.
A little goes a long way. If you’re not following a recipe you trust, use lavender sparingly. Its flavor is strong and can easily overwhelm baked goods or savory dishes if you’re heavy-handed. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.
Lavender has a strong flavor, so pair it accordingly with other assertive flavors. In baking, be sure to use a light touch or balance its low notes with something bright like lemon juice and zest.
A few more ideas if this got the creative juices flowing: Infuse simple syrup with a sprinkling of lavender and use to sweeten iced tea, lemonade, or even to flavor meringue. Grind some lavender into sugar and use it in simple butter cookies or infuse cream for lavender-scented whipped or ice cream.
Lavender is a member of the mint family and is close to rosemary, sage, and thyme. It is best used with fennel, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, and savory. Make your own dry blend of herbs and flowers (we like lavender with mint and rosemary) and rub on lamb chops or chicken wings before grilling. You can even candy the blossoms and use those to garnish.
Though this year, we are in advance of the harvest because of the extremely warm weather, it’s still not too late too see the lavender fields.