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Lavender for Household Use

By Candace Romig, Colorado Master GardenerSM, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver

My daughter gave me a small lavender plant for mother’s day several years ago.  Now as I walk to the garage, I am rewarded with its wonderful, sweet fragrance and abundant flowers and foliage.  Lavender has many wonderful uses in the home from drawer sachets to eating delights. 

 There are an estimated 36 varieties or species of lavender to choose from.  The dwarf varieties are more compact, with flowers of a deeper color, and make a nice edging for a kitchen garden. Planting lavender near the clothes dryer vent will spread the delicious scent of lavender in your patio or yard.

 The lavender flowers and pretty gray-green leaves can be harvested and made into sachets for lingerie drawers.   Lavender can add a romantic touch to the bedroom when placed sparingly on pillows or between freshly washed sheets. 

 Lavender as a condiment in cooking is perhaps the least known.   Fresh or dried lavender—in small doses—can be used to enhance almost any recipe.  Lavender is a very pungent herb, and using too much will overwhelm your taste buds and ruin a dish.  Too much lavender is like eating perfume.  As a member of the mint family, it is best used with fennel, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, and savory.   Grind the lavender in a coffee grinder used exclusively for this purpose.  Good results can also be achieved by using a mortar and pestle.

 Great with fish, poultry and meats, lavender can also be added to enhance the taste of vegetables, potatoes, and desserts.   It can render an ordinary dish of vanilla ice cream an exotic treat.  Mix lavender flowers with sugar to sprinkle over cookies before baking to delight guests.  A few lavender flowers in a fruit salad is beautiful and adds variety to the usual summer fare.  Experiment with lavender, starting with a little and changing the amount to suit your taste.

 Here are a few recipes using lavender:

 Lavender Infusion

Add cup fresh lavender flowers/buds (or 3 tablespoons dried lavender flowers/buds) to 3 cups of distilled water, which prevents discoloration of the liquid.   Bring the water to a boil and pour over the flowers, steeping the mixture for about 20 minutes.  Always use glass, enamel or stainless steel to prepare and store the mixture.  This infusion can be saved in the refrigerator for 2 weeks before it starts to deteriorate. 

 Lavender-Raspberry Jam

1 10-oz package of frozen or fresh raspberries

1 cup lavender infusion (see recipe above)

1 lemon juiced

4 cups sugar

1 pack of pectin

 Crush thawed raspberries and place all ingredients in a glass, enamel or stainless steel pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil and add pectin.  Boil for 1 minute.  Let it stand for 1 minute, before skimming off any foam or seeds to obtain a clear jelly.   Pour into jars and seal.

 Lavender Cream

2 cups milk

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons butter

cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon vanilla

teaspoon salt

6-7 stalks lavender flowers, taken off the stem (about 1 tablespoon)

 Bring 2 cups of milk and cup sugar to a boil.  Mix the cornstarch, salt, remaining sugar, eggs, and the remaining milk and add to the boiling mixture.   Stir until thick.  Add butter, vanilla and lavender.  Serve chilled over berries, cake or as a pie filling or topping.  Pansies can be used to garnish the dish.

Photo: Judy Sedbrook

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010