I have known people, with chronic sleep issues, who maintain a small bowl of lavender next to their bed. When sleeplessness sets in, they just take a few whiffs of this purple herb and they are immediately transported to a more restful place (I am talking sleep, not the afterlife). Some people spike their tea with a bit of lavender to sort of “smooth things out” before bed, and some people prefer to scent their pillow, or even nightclothes, with the perfume redolence of lavender. However, barring those who drink lavender tea, most people choose to keep lavender close, but not so close that the actually take it into their body.
This is a shame, as lavender can be overpowering when overused, it can also be exceptionally subtle and nuanced when used right and in the right amounts (remember, less is more). Lavender (the flowering plant, not the color) grows in many temperate climes around the globe, and is a relatively short-lived herbaceous perennial plant. While the oil from a lavender plant holds antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties when applied directly the skin, eating the actual flower provides a good boost of vitamin A, calcium, and even some iron. But as mentioned before, integrating lavender into your cooking can be a bit tricky, but worth it.
Lavender probably integrates the most seamlessly with baked goods and sweets, but also has other applications. Recently writer Genevieve Diesing wrote a piece for the Atlantic Online championing a handful of lavender recipes, including lavender syrup, blueberry lavender jam, and (many people’s favorite combo) lavender marshmallows. I personally dig the following recipe for lavender aioli, which goes beautifully over late summer vegetables, or pasta:
- 1 cup olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled and crushed
- 3 fresh lavender sprigs (leaves and flowers) crushed
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2. Remove from heat just before oil starts to bubble. Allow to cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes).
3. Then strain the lavender oil, pressing with the flat edge of a spoon to get everything from the garlic and lavender. You can throw away the herbs after this.
4. In a food processor or blender, process the eggs and lemon juice until well blended. With the motor running, slowly add the lavender oil a few drops at a time, then in a thin, steady stream until all the oil is absorbed and the mixture has emulsified.
5. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.