Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lovely Lavender

Who doesn’t adore lavender, that lovely blue eradicator of the blues, anger and insomnia? It is generally accepted that the word lavender stems from the Latin lavare, to wash, as the Romans used in the herb extensively in their baths. But in early Latin lavender was known as livendula, meaning, “to turn blue,” from the same root as our word

has long been used in love potions. The primary market still today for the
essential oil is in perfumes and cosmetics. It is also used to scent love notes
and clothing, where, in your chest of drawers, it makes an effective moth
repellant. Ironically, despite its erotic associations, during the Renaissance
it was believed that lavender worn with rosemary would preserve a woman’s

are about 30 species of lavender, plus countless hybrids and varieties, far too
numerous to list here. But they include both tender and hardy perennials with a
great diversity of colors – including pinks and whites – shapes and heights.

is a mint native to the Mediterranean. Like most herbs it prefers a sunny location
in light, dry, rocky soil. It should be pruned lightly in the fall and fairly
vigorously in the spring, removing any deadwood.

is a wonderful relaxant and antidepressant. In The Eve of Saint Agnes, John Keats wrote “And still she slept an azure sleep, /In blanched linen, smooth, and
Lavender essential oil gently rubbed into the temples or the
essential oil simmering in water in an aromatherapy lamp will ease you off to
sleep and make your headache vanish, especially if it’s stress related. A
lavender eye pillow at the end of a stressful day is far more effectual and
healthful than a double martini.

Lavender is virtually de rigueur in potpourri. Here’s a recipe
for Lavender and Geranium Potpourri to
add relaxation and romance to any ambience:

4 cups of dried lavender

2 cups of dried rose geranium

cups of dried rosemary

1 oz. of orris root

15 – 20 drops of lavender
essential oil.

Mix all
the ingredients thoroughly and place in a sealed jar. Age at least one month.
Shake the jar frequently.

essential oil is antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial with a low level of
toxicity, making it one of the few essential oils that can be applied directly
to the skin undiluted. Added to the bath it will alleviate muscular pain and
tension. As recent as WW1, the oil was used as an antiseptic wound dresser. As
with all essential oils, do not take
lavender oil internally unless it is strongly diluted. The dried flowers
infused as a tea will relieve indigestion, colic, gas and bloating. It is even
helpful is some cases of asthma, especially when nervousness is a factor.

research shows promise that one of lavender’s compounds, perillyl alcohol, may
be useful in combating cancer of the breast, pancreas, colon and prostate.

In the kitchen lavender blooms
are used to flavor vinegars, soups (especially cold fruit soups in the summer),
cookies, ice cream and sorbets. This markedly fragrant herb can be used in many
ways by creative chefs.

Try the following Salmon with Lavender and Fennel:

2 medium sized salmon steaks

1-½ tsp. dried, crushed
lavender flowers

1-½ tsp. crushed fennel seeds

Juice of ½ lemon

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Pinch of salt

Mix all
the ingredients together and cover both sides of the steaks. Then marinate them
in the refrigerator for several hours. Sauté over medium to high heat in a
non-stick pan until done – about six minutes per side.

and lamb make a surprisingly good combination. The following recipe occasions a
pleasant change from the usual rosemary and garlic accompaniment.

Lamb with Basil

1 leg of lamb

1 cup of milk (non-dairy such as nut or coconut milk may
be substituted)

Juice of ½ lemon

8-10 lavender flower heads

8 basil leaves

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Place the lamb in a
tightly-fitting lidded casserole. Mix the remaining ingredients and pour over
the lamb. Marinate for several hours, turning the lamb occasionally. Remove
from the marinade and bake, uncovered, at 325ºF for approximately 30 minutes
per lb. When the meat is done, strain the marinade, and then make it into gravy
by pouring it into a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Reserve about a
quarter cup and thoroughly blend in 1 tsp. of arrowroot powder. When smooth,
stir into hot marinade and simmer until thick.

Bruce Burnett is an award-winning writer, a chartered herbalist and author of HerbWise: growing cooking wellbeing. Bruce and his wife Delaine own Olivia’s Fashion, Furnishings & Gifts ( in Ladysmith, BC Canada. Read more published articles by Bruce Burnett on his websites: and

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