Wholesome Foods: by Laura Mancuso, health educator

Using lavender in your kitchen

July may be hot outside, but not so hot that you can’t enjoy the beautiful lavender blooms around this region. Hurry up and harvest your lavender because it may be gone by August. I have many lavender plants in my garden and I love to make bouquets and place them at my office and in my bedroom for their wonderful aroma. This year I am going to try cooking with lavender so I thought you might want to try the same. Here are five ways I researched how you can use lavender in your food and beverages.

  1. Add It to Baked Goods
    Baking with lavender is an easy way to up your culinary game. All your friends and family members will be impressed when you set a cake, pie or custard down and inform them that fresh lavender from your own garden is the star of the show.
    There are a few things you should know before diving right in, though. In order to avoid any lingering potpourri-style aftertastes, make sure you purchase or grow culinary lavender, grind or strain the leaves first, and remember that a little goes a long way. It’s easy to go overboard with such a fragrant ingredient, and it’s best to pair it with other strong flavors like lemon or rosemary that are known to complement lavender rather than compete with it.
  2. Make a Simple Syrup
    Have you ever made your own simple syrup? Crafting one with lavender is quick and easy, and can be used to elevate everything from cocktails to lemonade and fruit salads. An added benefit of making your own: You can almost guarantee your kitchen will have a fresh-from-the-garden scent for the rest of the day.
    All you need to do is heat up a pot of water, add lavender buds and sugar, and let it simmer until the water is thoroughly infused with lavender. Afterward, let the water cool (keep the lavender in the pot for the duration of this step), strain the final product and bottle it up to store in the fridge. Keep in mind that the longer you steep it, the stronger the flavor will be, so make sure to taste test along the way.
  3. Mix It Into Drinks
    Lavender pairs beautifully with other summery flavors like blueberries, lemons and mint, and this makes it perfect for whipping up a variety of refreshing lavender drinks. You can easily use the simple syrup recipe above and add a few drops into summer lemonade. Try mixing it with a classic lemonade, a blueberry lemonade or other fruity summer drinks.
    A few other crowd-pleasers include lavender lattes (if you’re a big fan of the lavender flavor), teas or a wide variety of cocktails. Some swear by the lavender and lemon martini, while others are huge fans of a blueberry lavender spritzer.
    Sparkling Lavender Lemonade
    ¾ cup purple lavender syrup
    6 (12-ounce) cans sparkling lemonade, chilled
    2 seedless lemons, thinly sliced Instructions Fill six glasses with ice and 3 to 4 lemon slices.
    Pour 2 tablespoons of lavender syrup into each glass, allowing it to settle to the bottom.
    Slowly add 1 can of sparkling lemonade to each glass. Stir gently with a straw or spoon to mix.
    Garnish with lemon slices and serve immediately.
  4. Whip Up Butters and Spreads
    Biscuits and scones taste delicious with honey butter. But if you want to step outside the box, you need to give lavender butter a try. It’s shockingly easy to make – it only requires combining half a cup of softened butter and a tablespoon of lavender buds – and is guaranteed to be a hit if you serve it at a dinner party or brunch.
    And if you’re hesitant to jump off the honey butter train, we have good news. You can enjoy the best of both worlds by combining the two in a Honey Lavender Butter recipe.
  5. Garnish With Fresh Blooms
    Fresh garnishes add color, contrast and a surprising burst of flavor to almost any dish. Think about how much better seafood tastes with a squeeze of lemon, or how beautiful a roasted chicken looks when topped with sprigs of rosemary or thyme. Fresh lavender blooms can have a similar effect, taking your cooking from good to great. Plus, it’s one of the easiest ways to cook with lavender and requires almost no extra time or preparation.
    Many people love to use lavender sprigs as a garnish on baked goods, such as tarts and naked cakes. You can also use them for garnishing cocktails, lemonades and salads. If you want to get extra fancy and really wow your dinner guests, consider serving vanilla bean ice cream with sprinkles of lavender buds for a surprising touch of color and flavor.