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Lavender

June 29, 2017

If you’ve taken a stroll near any gardens this week, then you’ve probably seen lavender in full bloom. This purple perennial shrub is relatively easy to grow in our region and offers an abundance of culinary, aromatic and medicinal uses far beyond its decorative presence in landscaping.

Lavender is a genus within the mint family that includes over 20 different species and hundreds of cultivars. Lavender is grown worldwide, but is native to the Mediterranean region, the Arabian Peninsula, and eastern Africa. Lavender comes from the Latin word lavare which means “to wash or bathe.” The petals of this fragrant shrub have been used to treat ailments throughout history, for everything from migraines and toothaches to insomnia, hair loss, and depression. In ancient times, lavender was commonly used as an antiseptic and perfume for baths, massage oils, and anointing tombs of the departed. In the Middle Ages, lavender petals were used as an antimicrobial during times of plague.

Clinical research indicates that lavender may be possibly effective for reducing anxiety, relieving pain, and speeding up healing of canker sores. Limited studies have demonstrated lavender oil may be effective in reducing hair loss when combined with essential oils of thyme, rosemary, and cedarwood. Lavender oil combined with peppermint oil appears to be effective for reducing length and severity of migraine headaches. If you are pregnant, consult your doctor before using any essential oils.

English lavender is the most common species grown and produced worldwide for use in commercial products like soaps, fragrances, essential oils, and lavender-flavored food items. Lavender offers a variety of uses. Don’t let an abundant lavender harvest go to waste! Lavender should be picked just after blooming and during a dry spell. The petals can be dried and used for bouquets, potpourri pillows, homemade soaps and salves, linen sprays, or for food purposes like lavender sugar, tea, or syrup. English lavender varieties are typically better for culinary use than Spanish or French lavenders, which may impart a bitter or acidic taste.

Looking for more ideas? Check out the following lavender recipes:

Lavender Almond Latte (Recipe from themediterraneandietitian.com)

Ingredients:
1 cup almond milk
1/4 tsp dried lavender
1/4 tsp tumeric, ground
1/4 tsp peppercorns
1/4 tsp ginger, ground
2 cardamom seeds, slightly crushed

Preparation:
1. In a small pot, add all the ingredients together and warm your milk in medium temperature until hot enough but not boiling.
2. Keep stirring to avoid any burned milk at the bottom of the pan.
3. Get your favorite mug and using a sieve to catch all the bits, add the golden milk to it

Lavender Mint Tea (recipe from Taste of Home Magazine Annual Cookbook 2007)
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients:
1/4 cup sliced fresh mint leaves
4 teaspoons dried lavender flowers
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
4 cups boiling water
2 teaspoons honey, optional

Directions:
In a large heat-safe bowl, combine the mint, lavender and rosemary. Add boiling water. Cover and steep for 4 minutes. Strain tea, discarding mint mixture. Stir in honey if desired. Serve immediately.
Editor’s Note: Look for dried lavender flowers in spice shops. If using lavender from the garden, make sure it hasn’t been treated with chemicals.

Lavender Sugar (recipe from Whole Foods Market)
Makes 3 cups of sugar or enough for 2 or 3 gifts

Notes: Lavender sugar can be used in a multitude of ways. Try stirring into hot or iced tea, use to sweeten scone and muffin batter, sprinkle over sugar cookies before baking or mix in softened butter for a sweet, herbaceous spread.

Ingredients:
• 4 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
• 3 cups sugar
Method:
Place lavender and sugar in a food processor. Pulse to mix evenly, and until you see flecks of lavender evenly distributed throughout the sugar. Divide evenly and package in decorative containers for gift giving.

Lavender Spritzer (recipe from Martha Stewart Living Jan 2010)
Ingredients:
4 cups water
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons dried lavender blossoms
4 ½ cups sparkling water, chilled
Directions: Bring water and sugar to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add lavender; remove from heat. Let stand for 30 minutes. Strain. Return to pan, and boil until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely. Fill each of 6 glasses with 3/4 cup sparkling water. Stir 1/4 cup syrup into each (add less if you desire less sweet).

Article by Natalie Colla, CDE, RDN, LDN. Natalie is a diabetes educator and graduate of the University of Idaho Dietetics Program.

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