Enrich Your Cooking With the Distinct Taste and Fragrance of Lavender
I’d never seen so many hard-working bees. As I relaxed into the rural vista, surrounded by fields of lavender in stunning purples, the hum of the bees soothed me into bliss. The fragrance of the flowers was the final calming element. Stress melted and vaporized.
I was at Keys Creek Lavender Farm in eastern San Diego County during the last weekend in May. The peak blooming season this far south is May and June, so my daughter Angela and I timed our visit perfectly. If you live further north, the peak blooming season for this hardy plant, which thrives in many parts of the country, will be later in the summer.
One of the Keyes Creek owners gave us a tour of their organic fields and the distillery where they make essential oils. I had always loved the beauty and fragrance of lavender, but never thought of it as a cooking ingredient until I sampled the farm’s fruity lavender tea. Still another level of enjoyment and relaxation infused me with that distinctive taste and aroma.
We drove home with fresh and dried lavender, various lavender oils and scrubs, sachets, orange and lemon lavender teas, and the farm’s organic Herbes de Provence. I had never cooked with this herb mixture – or in fact with lavender at all – before. While there are many different
blends of Herbes de Provence, the Keys Creek blend has basil, marjoram, thyme, and lavender as the main flavors. I’ve enjoyed this
new addition to my flavor menu, often adding a spoonful of the herb blend to the broth I stir fry veggies in for both the unique taste and fragrance.
You can purchase Herbes de Provence blends in some supermarkets or natural food stores, or find it on the web if your local store does not carry it. Or you can mix your own Herbes de Provence with one of the many directives for this blend you’ll find online.
You may be able to find fresh or dried lavender at your local farmers market, grow your own, or order it delivered right to your door. You don’t need much, as the flavor and fragrance are so distinctive. Remember, herbs and spices play an essential role in a whole foods, plant-based diet, providing antioxidants for your health and flavor and aroma for your appetite.
Researchers confirm health benefits for cooking with lavender and enjoying the natural fragrance of the flowers. For example, published studies find that lavender is effective for reducing insomnia and improving sleep quality, diminishing pain (including migraine pain during a headache), reducing falls in elderly nursing home residents, and calming stress. I was not just imagining how blissful I felt on the lavender farm.
A couple of cautions. Be sure you are cooking with food grade lavender, not lavender preserved for crafts (that you would buy in a crafts story). Also, do not consume the essential oil directly. This highly concentrated oil is meant to be mixed with another oil or lotion for fragrance, not consumed or directly inhaled for more
than a few whiffs on its own.
When I think of the lavender farm, the image of the flowers dense with healthy bees fills my mental screen. Their humming and buzzing drown out the noise around me. All over the world, mysterious colony collapse disorder is killing large proportions of the bees who are essential for pollination. Many scientists believe toxic manmade chemicals used in commercial agriculture are the culprits.
Without bees, life as we know it on our planet can’t survive. The bees thriving amid fields of organic lavender are hope for the future.
If you liked this post, you may want to learn more about mint, a cousin of lavender with its own health benefits and calming effects.
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Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet: How to Lose Weight and Get Healthy Now With Six Kinds of Whole Foods. This easy-to-follow eating plan is built on a whole foods, plant-based diet that can prevent, and even reverse, most chronic disease. Janice is enjoying lavender tea and recipes flavored with Herbes de Provence.
Tags: antioxidants, essential oils, getting healthy, Herbes de Provence, insomnia, Keys Creek Lavender farm, lavender, migraines, pain relief, Plant-based nutrition, stress relief, whole foods plant-based diet