Fact sheet: Lavender
The lavenders (botanic name Lavandula) are a genus of 39 species of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae.
Description: The genus includes herbaceous annual or short lived herbaceous perennial plants (the species from India), and suffruticose perennials, subshrubs or small shrubs across most of the rest of its distribution.
Flowers may be blue, violet or lilac in the wild species, occasionally blackish purple or yellowish.
Culinary use: Flowers yield abundant nectar from which bees make a high-quality honey. Flowers can be candied and are sometimes used as cake decorations. Lavender flavors baked goods and desserts (it pairs especially well with chocolate), and is also used to make “lavender sugar”. Lavender flowers are occasionally blended with black, green, or herbal tea, adding a fresh, relaxing scent and flavor.
Though it has many other traditional uses in southern France, lavender is not used in traditional southern French cooking. In the 1970s, a herb blend called herbes of Provence usually including lavender was invented by spice wholesalers, and lavender has more recently become popular in cookery.
Lavender lends a floral and slightly sweet flavor to most dishes, and is sometimes paired with sheep’s-milk and goat’s-milk cheeses. For most cooking applications the dried buds (also referred to as flowers) are used, though some chefs experiment with the leaves as well. Only the buds contain the essential oil of lavender, from which the scent and flavor of lavender are best derived.
Cultivation: Lavenders flourish best in dry, well-drained, sandy or gravelly soils in full sun. All types need little or no fertilizer and good air circulation. In areas of high humidity, root rot due to fungus infection can be a problem. Organic mulches can trap moisture around the plants’ bases, encouraging root rot. Gravelly materials such as crushed rocks give better results.
Sold at Nassau County Master Gardener Plant Sale