Cooking with Lavender

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If you browse through the herb listings in an old cookbook, you’re unlikely to find lavender sandwiched among the entries for garlic and mint. Look in a newer edition, though, and the purple plant is getting its due.

“It’s finally made its way out of soaps and potions and lotions to a staple in the kitchen,” says Vickie Oen, general manager at Purple Haze Lavender, a certified organic lavender farm in Sequim, Wash.

The culinary uses for lavender are almost endless, thanks to its versatility. “It has a flowery scent and it marries well with all kinds of things, whether it be something savory or something sweet,” Oen says. “There really isn’t anything that it isn’t good with if used in small quantities.”

Using just a bit here and there is important, as lavender is a strong herb that can overpower a dish. Instead of feeling like you’re eating a bushel of lavender, you want only a hint of the aromatic herb. “People want to use it like basil or oregano and put a couple of pieces in, but that’s way, way too much,” Oen cautions.

At Purple Haze, which resides in the ideal microclimate for lavender to flourish, the farm started with just an acre and has grown to 12 acres in its 17 years. They make products including salad dressing, tea, honey, hot chocolate mix, sugar and ice cream, among other items. “We use the stems that are left after defoliating the culinary lavender buds to make fire starters for your barbecue or fireplace,” Oen says. “All other leftovers are composted back into the ground around the farm — nothing goes to waste with a lavender plant.”

But you don’t have to own a lavender farm to make the herb into something tasty. Try your hand at using culinary lavender at home with this recipe from Purple Haze:

Grilled Salmon with
Lavender & Basil

  • 4 fresh salmon steaks or fillets

Marinade:

  • 1 teaspoon dried lavender florets
  • 5 large fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Combine all marinade ingredients to use as a baste for grilling. Place salmon on a hot, lightly oiled grill or barbecue, skin side down. Baste frequently with the marinade. When salmon is done, baste with the remaining marinade.

Serve and wait for the compliments!

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr/taylorri40

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Haley Shapley

Haley Shapley is based in Seattle, where recycling is just as cool as Macklemore, walking in the rain without an umbrella, and eating locally sourced food. She writes for a wide range of national and regional publications, covering everything from sustainability and health to travel and retail.