By Marlene Affeld

"Herbaceous," "woody," "undertone of mint," "earthy," "smokey," "apple-like" and "green" are descriptive of the taste of lavender. A member of the mint plant family, lavender has a unique and distinctive flavor that separates it from other species of mint. Lavender presents a floral, pungent aroma and flavor.

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Lavender is a fragrant garden addition.

Plant Description

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Lavender is used to flavor frostings and confectionaries.

The deliciously distinctive fragrance and flavor of lavender has been prized for centuries. Native to the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean, Spain and Portugal, aromatic lavender grows best in stony, sunny locations. Today lavender is cultivated in the United States, Europe, Africa and Australia. A short, heavily branched perennial shrub, lavender grows to a height of 18 to 24 inches. The foliage is composed of silvery-green, feathery leaves, oblong and tapered. Deep blue-violet flowers are arranged in spirals of six to 10 small blooms that rise above the foliage.

Lavender can be used fresh, preserved or dried. Lavender essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the flowers.

Incorportating Lavender Into Food Recipes

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Fresh lavender is cut and tied in bundles to dry.

When cooking, you can artfully substitute lavender for thyme or marjoram. Grind lavender buds with natural sugar to use as a garnish or in recipes calling for sugar. Use 1 tsp. of dried lavender buds to 3 cups of sugar. Lavender is pungent and highly flavorful. A little goes a long way. Experiment with lavender, starting with just a pinch at a time, until you discover the amount that pleases your palate.

Lavender is often used with sweets, adding color, visual appeal and flavor to candies, cakes, breads, syrups, sauces, wine, ice cream, jellies, lemonade and tea. Lavender is also employed to add a sweet, herbaceous flavor to chicken, fish and pork. Lavender is added to honey and infused in vinegar and salad dressings.

Lavender Essential Oil Uses

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The scent of lavender is calming and relaxing.

Add 10 to 15 drops of therapeutic grade lavender essential oil to 1 cup of cream and 1/2 cup of organic honey. Blend well and add to a warm or hot bath. Lavender calms nerves, eases anxiety and promotes a restful sleep. Lavender's anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, emollient and anti-infection properties soothe rough red skin, relieve the sting of a sunburn, calm the itching of insect bites and promote healing of rashes and skin blemishes.

Lavender is used extensively in aromatherapy for calming, centering and balancing the body. Lavender derives its name from the Latin word lavare, which means to clean, bathe or wash. Lavender is an integral ingredient in many soaps, shampoos, perfumes, bath gels and salts.

Storage

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Store lavender flowers in airtight, opaque containers.

Store dried lavender buds in amber or dark blue glass jars, or in metal tins with airtight lids. Properly stored lavender buds maintain their sweet fragrance and flavor for many years. Store lavender essential oil in tightly sealed colored glass bottles. Keep essential oil out of bright sunlight.