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Lavender: It’s Not Just For the Sleepless Anymore

Lavender: It’s Not Just For the Sleepless Anymore

I have known people, with chronic sleep issues, who maintain a small bowl of lavender next to their bed. When sleeplessness sets in, they just take a few whiffs of this purple herb and they are immediately transported to a more restful place (I am talking sleep, not the afterlife). Some people spike their tea with a bit of lavender to sort of “smooth things out” before bed, and some people prefer to scent their pillow, or even nightclothes, with the perfume redolence of lavender. However, barring those who drink lavender tea, most people choose to keep lavender close, but not so close that the actually take it into their body.

This is a shame, as lavender can be overpowering when overused, it can also be exceptionally subtle and nuanced when used right and in the right amounts (remember, less is more). Lavender (the flowering plant, not the color) grows in many temperate climes around the globe, and is a relatively short-lived herbaceous perennial plant. While the oil from a lavender plant holds antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties when applied directly the skin, eating the actual flower provides a good boost of vitamin A, calcium, and even some iron. But as mentioned before, integrating lavender into your cooking can be a bit tricky, but worth it.

Lavender probably integrates the most seamlessly with baked goods and sweets, but also has other applications. Recently writer Genevieve Diesing wrote a piece for the Atlantic Online championing a handful of lavender recipes, including lavender syrup, blueberry lavender jam, and (many people’s favorite combo) lavender marshmallows. I personally dig the following recipe for lavender aioli, which goes beautifully over late summer vegetables, or pasta:

Lavender Aioli

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled and crushed
  • 3 fresh lavender sprigs (leaves and flowers) crushed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. In a small saucepan, gently heat the oil on med-low with the garlic and lavender for about 15 minutes (do not allow the garlic to brown)

2. Remove from heat just before oil starts to bubble. Allow to cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes).

3. Then strain the lavender oil, pressing with the flat edge of a spoon to get everything from the garlic and lavender. You can throw away the herbs after this.

4. In a food processor or blender, process the eggs and lemon juice until well blended. With the motor running, slowly add the lavender oil a few drops at a time, then in a thin, steady stream until all the oil is absorbed and the mixture has emulsified.

5. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Do you have any innovative lavender recipes to share? Have you found ways to integrate lavender into your meal plan? Do you like the flavor or find it to perfumey?

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


+ add your own
8:14AM PST on Feb 15, 2013


5:24PM PDT on Sep 14, 2012


8:30AM PDT on Sep 14, 2012

Interesting read :) Thanks

5:34AM PDT on Sep 14, 2012

Thank you!:)

3:07AM PDT on Sep 14, 2012

I grow it, but not to eat.

2:23AM PDT on Sep 14, 2012


4:46AM PDT on Sep 13, 2012

I like the smell, however I haven't try to do anything more with it so far. Have to try ;)

12:41AM PDT on Sep 13, 2012


10:04PM PDT on Sep 12, 2012

Very interesting, thanks!

8:46PM PDT on Sep 12, 2012

Interesting, ty

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