Meet Herb

This month's column is especially for a loyal reader. It seems she has some lavender in her garden and needs to know what to do with it. It set me a bit of a challenge since lavender is one of those things I rarely use. I needed to do some research!

A quick search of the web netted me a site that was just brimming with information. Visit http://www.lavenderfarms.com and then follow the links. There's a wealth of information here.

Lavender grows as a low shrub-like bush. It has narrow, pointed, grey-green leaves and spiky purple flowers. It has a sweet, slightly sharp, pungent flavour. Although it has a limited culinary value -- the flowers are used most often for their decorative value -- it is used medicinally and cosmetically. It has a symbolic meaning too -- it is known to signify the recognition and acceptance of love!

Gently bruise four spikes of lavender with flowers open, no stems, and bury them in one cup of sugar in a sealable container and let them macerate for two weeks, shaking the jar every day. Before using, strain out the flowers. Sprinkle it over fruit salads, use it to make ice cream, add it to cake batters, or whip it into cream cheese frostings. This sugar will keep for a month, if it lasts that long!

A few handfuls of lavender flowers into a facial steam have excellent cleansing and toning values. Add a pinch or two of lavender flowers to your next herbal tea or tisane to enhance its relaxation qualities.

Lavender Cleansing Cream

Lavender refreshes and feeds the skin. This cleanser is great for dry skin as it helps to replenish natural oils.
  • 6 tbsp almond oil
  • 10 tbsp grated white wax
  • 3 tbsp lavender water
  • 1 drop of oil of lavender (optional)

Melt the oil and wax in the top of a double boiler. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly, then beat in the lavender water, cider vinegar, and oil of lavender. Pour the cream into a lidded jar. do not refrigerate.

Smooth the lotion over your face and neck avoiding the eye area and remove with cotton pads.

  • Yields: about 1 cup

Lavender Water

This is an ingredient in the above recipe for cleanser, but can also be used as an after bath splash.
  • 2 cups lavender flowers
  • 2 pints distilled water, brought to a boil
  • 2 tbsp vodka

Pour the lavender flowers into a heatproof container. Pour the boiling water over them and stir well. Cover and allow to infuse for 48 hours, stirring occasionally.

Strain the liquid through a nonmetallic strainer, pressing the flowers to extract the maximum fragrance. Stir in the vodka, pour into bottles, cover and label.

  • Yields: 2 pints

Lavender Jelly

This is a standard recipe, in fact, on my visit to the Lavender Farms site, I found it to be almost the same as the one they use!
  • 2 cups lavender infusion (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 pouch -- 3 ounces -- liquid pectin

Combine the infusion, lemon juice and sugar and bring to a full boil, stirring constantly. Allow to boil vigorously for one minute, continuing to stir. Remove from heat, add pectin and continue stirring for 5 minutes, skimming if necessary. Pour into sterilized jars and seal.

Lavender Infusion

Use this in the making of jelly.
  • 1/2 cup fresh lavender flowers, no stems
  • 3 cups distilled water brought to a boil

Pour boiling water over flowers in a heatproof container and allow to steep for 20 - 30 minutes. Strain and store in a glass jar.

Lavender Custard

I found this recipe at the Lavender Farms site, contributed by JaCyn Lavender Farms. It's a nice change of pace with a subtle flavour, and surprised me by being very popular! Try it for yourself.
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp lavender leaves
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp corn starch

Bring the milk and lavender leaves to a boil in a double boiler. Cover and let stand away from heat for 15 - 20 minutes. Strain and set aside. Stir the sugar and cornstarch together in a medium saucepan and slowly add the strained milk. Cook over low heat stirring constantly until bubbly and thickened. Remove pan from heat and add about 1/2 cup of the hot mixture to the beaten eggs, stir quickly and add back to the mixture in the saucepan. Cook for another three minutes.

Can be served hot or cold.

I'm always on the lookout for interesting fodder for this column. Let me know what's growing in your gardens this season. I'm also thinking of dedicating an upcoming column to reader feedback. I'd like to hear about the wonderful things you do with herbs in your kitchen. Inspire me and you may find yourself featured in a future column!

I look forward to hearing from you!

TTFN

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