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Cooking with Lavender: The Essence of Sequim, WA

lavender field

©LindaBarnfather/2016

The minute you step out of your car you can smell the sweet scent of the beautiful blooming flowers. Out of the corner of your eye you see flowing fields of purple and hear the hum of honeybees in the air. It’s summer time and travelers come from all over the world to experience the famous lavender farms in Sequim, Washington. Each of the family owned farms reflects the character, personality, and interests of the farmers, who are happy to share their stories and knowledge about the stunning, fragrant plants, including how to cook with this beautiful, versatile flower.

People are often surprised to learn that lavender is an herb and part of the mint family—and a versatile culinary ingredient. Lavender has been used in cooking for thousands of years and is a staple in the French blend Herbs de Provence.

Lavender pairs well with citrus, sweets, and savory dishes. While all lavender is technically edible, there are certain varieties that are better for cooking. Be sure to look for lavender buds labeled for culinary use. These buds will be from lavenders in the angustifolia cultivars, often referred to as true lavender. The purple varieties of Munstead, Hidcote, Royal Velvet, and Folgate, and the pink variety Melissa are commonly used as culinary lavenders.

Lavender Infusions

One simple way to incorporate lavender into your favorite dishes is to create an infusion by steeping the buds in a hot liquid and adding it to your recipes. Lavender lemonade is a popular example and a great way to surprise your friends with a new twist on an old favorite.

lavender lemonade

Lavender and lemonade make a great pair.

Lavender Lemonade (recipe courtesy of Cedarbrook Lavender)

Ingredients:

1 Quart Lemonade (canned or squeeze your own)

1 T dried culinary lavender bud

1 C boiling water

Bring water to a rapid boil. Pour boiling water over lavender and let steep for approximately 20 minutes. Strain out the lavender buds from the liquid and add the lavender-infused water to the lemonade. Serve the chilled lemonade over ice and garnish with a lavender sprig and lemon slice.

You can also make simple lavender syrup by combining the one cup of lavender infused water with one cup of sugar. Heat on medium until the sugar is dissolved. Cool and store in the refrigerator in a glass jar for up to two weeks to use in your favorite cocktails and beverages.

Dried Lavender Buds

An easy way to incorporate lavender into your savory dishes is to use the dried buds in combination with other herbs. Herbs de Provence is a common blend that can be found in most grocery store spice aisles and specialty stores. The blend usually includes thyme, marjoram, rosemary, savory, and lavender. It is a flexible combination that pairs well with grilled meats and vegetables and in salad dressings and sauces.

Lavender can be combined with a number of different spices and herbs to add a distinctive flavor to dishes. The key to cooking with lavender is to use it sparingly. Lavender should enhance the flavors in a recipe and not overpower them. Start with a small bit of lavender and add more if needed to get the combination you like.

Tip: Grind your ingredients together in a spice blender or use a mortar and pestle to combine the herbs and spices and give a more subtle lavender flavor to foods.

pork chops

Lavender works well in savory dishes with other herbs and spices.

Spiced Grilled Pork Chops

Ingredients:

4 Bone-in Pork Chops

Olive Oil

1/2 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/4 tsp dried lavender buds

1 tsp coarse sea salt

1/2 tsp coarsely ground pepper

Combine fennel seeds, cumin seeds, lavender, and sea salt in a spice blender or mortar and pestle and blend until incorporated. Lightly spray pork chops with olive oil, sprinkle with spice blend and coarsely ground pepper. Grill the chops over a medium high heat for approximately 5 minutes per side, or until the meat is cooked through.

Lavender Sugar

Lavender sugar is a great way to incorporate the essence of lavender into baked good and it is very easy to make.

Ingredients:

1 ½ T dried lavender buds

2 cups granulated sugar ( use raw sugar if you prefer)

Combine lavender and sugar in an airtight container for one month; shake well once a week, allowing the fragrance of the lavender to permeate through the sugar. Depending on your flavor preference, you can strain out the lavender buds or grind the mixture to incorporate the buds and have a stronger lavender flavor.

Add the sugar into your favorite cookie, muffin, and cake recipes for a hint of lavender in your baked treats.

cookies

Lavender sugar is easy to incorporate into baked goods like these delectable cookies.

There are plenty of ways to start adding lavender into your recipes.  Start experimenting and have fun with a new flavor.

Grow Your Own Lavender

Lavender is a beautiful plant that will flourish in most gardens with full sun and well-drained soil. It is native to the rugged slopes of the Mediterranean region and does not need much attention besides a good trim in the fall after the blooming season to keep the plants compact.

Adding a plant or two to your garden will add gorgeous color and fragrance and give you a supply of fresh lavender for bouquets and dried buds.

There are literally hundreds of varieties of lavender, so talk with the growers at lavender farms and select the plants that will best suit your needs and garden space.

lavender garden

There are hundreds of lavender varieties to choose from.

Sequim Lavender Farms

The lavender farms in Sequim, Washington, are known throughout the world for the high quality of lavender that they produce. Sequim sits in a rain shadow created by the Olympic Mountains and receives approximately 16 inches of annual rainfall. This makes the area one of the driest locations in western Washington and perfect for growing lavender. The mild summers keep the plants lush and each is harvested by hand at the peak of fragrance and color.

There are more than a dozen lavender farms open in the summer for you to visit, and several have gift shops in downtown Sequim for convenient access to local lavender products throughout the year. Can’t make it to Sequim? Most of the farms have on-line stores and ship to customers throughout the country.

Go to the visitsunnysequim.com website to plan your visit to Sequim and find resources for local lavender farms and products.

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