Cooking and Baking with Lavender: A Delicious Journey

Cooking and Baking with Lavender: A Delicious Journey

Photo By Heather Ford

Lavender, with its delicate purple blooms and captivating aroma, is a beloved herb that has transcended its traditional use in sachets and potpourri to become a versatile and intriguing ingredient in the culinary world. Cooking with lavender adds a unique twist to your dishes, offering both a distinct flavour and a soothing aroma that can elevate your culinary creations. In this guide, we'll explore different varieties of lavender, delve into the culture of lavender, and discover what lavender tastes like. We'll also discuss which parts of the lavender plant are edible and provide practical tips on using edible lavender in your cooking.

Different Varieties of Lavender

Before we dive into the culinary aspects, it's important to understand that there are various lavender varieties, each with its own unique flavour and aroma. The most commonly used culinary lavender varieties are:

  1. English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is renowned for its delicate and sweet floral flavor, making it a top choice for culinary creations. Whether infusing dishes or crafting desserts, this variety offers a delightful aroma and taste. Varieties such as "Hidcote," "Munstead," "Royal Velvet," and "Rosea" are celebrated for their compact growth, intense fragrance, and stunning deep purple blooms, adding visual and aromatic allure to any garden.
  2. French Lavender (Lavandula stoechas): French lavender is known for its bolder, slightly more pungent flavor compared to English lavender. It's often used in savory dishes like roasted meats and stews.
  3. Spanish Lavender (Lavandula pedunculata): Spanish lavender boasts a citrusy note in addition to the classic lavender flavor. It's a fantastic choice for cocktails and floral teas.

Cultivating your own lavender plants can be a rewarding experience. Lavender is relatively easy to grow, but it does require well-drained soil, plenty of sunlight, and minimal water to thrive. Pruning the plants after they bloom will encourage new growth and enhance their fragrance. Read more of our blog posts about How to Choose Lavender Plant? and How to Take Care of your Lavender?

What Does Lavender Taste Like?

The term "lavender" generally encompasses any plant within the Lavandula genus, which comprises over 45 different species and more than 450 varieties. However, not all lavender varieties are ideal for culinary use. Culinary lavender, primarily sourced from Lavandula angustifolia plants (commonly referred to as English or "true" lavender), is preferred in cooking due to its lower oil content, distinguishing it from aromatic lavender types typically utilized in perfumes or soaps.

Lavandula angustifolia has a unique flavor profile that combines floral, sweet, and herbaceous notes. The taste can be described as somewhat reminiscent of rosemary, mint, and a hint of citrus. Its distinct taste makes it a versatile addition to both sweet and savoury dishes.

What Part of Lavender is Edible?

Lavender offers a range of edible components, primarily the blossoms and leaves, which can be used when fresh. For a more concentrated lavender flavour, dried buds and stems are also suitable for culinary use. It's worth noting that the lavender flavour becomes more pronounced when the herb is dried, so when using dried buds, exercise restraint to avoid overwhelming your dishes with its potent essence.

How to Use Edible Lavender in Cooking?

  1. Infusions and Syrups: Lavender infusions are a fantastic way to incorporate the herb's flavor into various recipes. To make a lavender infusion, simply heat your desired liquid (water, milk, honey, or even olive oil), add a handful of fresh or dried lavender buds, and let it steep. Use the infused liquid in beverages, desserts, or salad dressings.
  2. Baking: Lavender can be used to flavor baked goods such as cookies, cakes, and scones. Just remember that a little goes a long way – a pinch of dried lavender or a teaspoon of fresh lavender blossoms can impart a delightful floral note to your treats.
  3. Herb Rubs: Lavender works exceptionally well as a component of herb rubs for meats like chicken, lamb, or pork. Combine it with other herbs and spices for a well-balanced flavor profile.
  4. Beverages: Lavender can add a refreshing and fragrant twist to your beverages. Create lavender-infused cocktails, lemonades, or hot teas for a unique flavor experience.
  5. Sauces and Marinades: Incorporate lavender into sauces and marinades for meats and vegetables. Its floral notes can brighten up the flavor profile of your dishes.
  6. Salads: Sprinkle a small amount of edible lavender over fresh salads to give them a surprising twist. Lavender pairs well with citrus and vinaigrette dressings.

Cooking with lavender is a wonderful way to introduce a touch of elegance and a unique flavor to your culinary creations. Experiment with different lavender varieties and explore the diverse ways it can be used in your kitchen. When used thoughtfully, lavender can add a captivating, fragrant dimension to your dishes, making them a true sensory delight for both you and your guests. So, don't hesitate to explore the world of lavender-infused cuisine and savor the subtle magic it can bring to your table.

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