While at the Arizona Lavender Festival, I learned all about culinary lavender – from its flavor profiles to its edible varieties. We know lavender for its unforgettable scent and vibrant color but have you ever tasted it? Even just a tiny bite? It’s flavor is unique and bold, making it extremely versatile in recipes and perfect for elevated everyday cooking. While out at the Arizona Lavender Festival we learned all about lavender, from the soil conditions and growing season to its delicious culinary applications. So, let’s get into the nitty gritty roots of this iconic edible purple flower with this culinary guide.
Mini Guide: Culinary Lavender
This mini guide gives you all the flowery details about culinary lavender. Use this culinary lavender guide to help you see lavender in a new way, beyond the soaps and lotions.
Did you know?
- Lavender stems are very flavorful and can be used as a drink’s stir stick or a skewer for kabobs.
- Lavender plants and grape vines are a perfect pair. When planted together the lavender helps ward off bugs and viruses making them a great duo for organic farming.
- Culinary lavender is still pretty new to the US cooking scene and even into the 1990’s lavender wasn’t used in everyday recipes.
Is all lavender edible?
Technically yes, but only a few lavender varieties are considered true culinary lavender and have a delicious flavor. Royal velvet and provence varieties are classified to be culinary lavender and are perfect for cooking. Other varieties, like grosso, are more commonly used as decoration, bouquets, and for essential oils, not in the kitchen.
Good Rule of Thumb – If you find an unlabeled lavender bouquet at the store or market, it most likely isn’t culinary lavender and should be used as just decoration. Culinary lavender is most commonly found dried with the purple flower bulbs separated from the stem and packaged in an airtight container.
Culinary Lavender Cooking Tips
Whether it’s fresh or dried, culinary lavender should be treated just like any other herb. If kept out of direct light and in an airtight and dry container, culinary lavender will stay flavorful and fragrant for 1-3 years. Using culinary lavender either crushed, roughly chopped, or whole in a dish can add intense flavor and can be used in a variety of ways, like in drinks, meats, or desserts. A classic culinary lavender dried herb blend is Herbes de Provence, which is a combination of lavender, thyme, savory, oregano, rosemary, and marjoram. While dried lavender is hard to come by at the grocery store, Herbs de Provence is commonly found in the spice section of most grocery stores and can be used with meat, vegetables, or other savory dishes.
Best Lavender Flavor Combinations: Lavender + Honey, Lavender + Ice Cream, Lavender + Chicken, Lavender + Lamb
Cooking with Lavender Warning: When cooking, use lavender sparingly. Too much culinary lavender in a dish can make your dish taste like soap! Lavender’s flavor is really intense and a little goes a long way. Also, as mentioned above, all lavender is edible but not all lavender tastes good. Make sure you are buying culinary lavender for a recipe, not the decorative varieties.
How do you Harvest lavender?
Whether you are harvesting culinary lavender or any other lavender, the picking and harvesting process is the same. First, lightly brush the top of the plant to scare away any bees or bugs. You then want to grab a handful of flower stems right under where the purple flowers begin to form. Using garden sheers, trim the long green stems making sure not to cut the wiry and woody branches and leaves at the crown of the plant. Trimming below the long green stems into the crown will kill the plant! So, be gentle, take your time, and only trim what you think you will need. Check out the photos below for more harvesting details.
After harvesting, tie the lavender bundle securely with a rubber band and hang the bouquet upside-down for at least 24 hours. Hanging the bouquet upside-down to dry will draw the essential oils down into the flower buds, making them more fragrant and flavorful. After 24 hours, you can put the dried lavender bundles around your house or use them for cooking. To remove the flower buds from the stem, you can gently roll the flower buds between your palms or gently pull down on the buds dragging your hand in the opposite direction that buds are growing. If you are going to cook with the harvested culinary lavender, you then want to sift and shake the buds in a sieve to remove any dried unwanted particles from the flowers.
Can I Grow Lavender in my Yard?
Lavender grows really well in dry, warm climates – like Arizona! It’s important to note that if bought at a home and garden store will most likely only live for one year before it exceeds its lifespan and needs to be replaced. In order to have long-lasting lavender you need to plant a lavender root, not just seeds or living store-bought plant. Growing the plant from a root gives that plant a lifespan of 20+ years! You can buy the lavender root straight from the lavender farm, here.
I hope you feel more confident planting, harvesting, and cooking with lavender! Culinary lavender really adds elegant flavors to any dish. Have you used lavender in your kitchen? I would love to hear about it in a comment!