Lavender is popular not only as a medicinal plant, but also as a kitchen herb. But beware: not all varieties of lavender are suitable for cooking and eating! We explain what to consider when eating and processing this useful plant.
Consumption of lavender
Lavender is one of the non-toxic plants, so you might think that it can be consumed without hesitation. However, this is not so, because not all lavender is edible. Not all lavender varieties are suitable for consumption. While some varieties captivate with their intense aroma and enhance dishes, others provide an almost soap-like taste. Apart from that, the use of certain varieties can lead to unpleasant side effects.
What varieties of lavender are edible?
Most often used in the kitchen is the true lavender, which is easily recognized by its narrow leaves. It has a sweet smell and a taste reminiscent of rosemary. However, it is different with the crested and spiked lavender: the crested lavender usually tastes too strong, because it contains much more essential oils. Spike lavender, on the other hand, gives dishes a soap-like note.
In addition to the variety, certain quality characteristics naturally also play an essential role – regardless of whether the lavender is purchased at a garden center or grown in the home garden:
- organic cultivation
- plant should be healthy and undamaged
- as many side shoots as possible
- fresh scent
Tip: This popular useful plant also grows in the wild, but in local regions it is more common to find the lavandin variety. However, this is a hybrid form of the lavender and the true lavender. Lavandin, however, is not of such high quality and is usually only suitable for cooking to a limited extent.
Lavender is generally said to be well tolerated, after all it has also made a name for itself as a medicinal plant. Among other things, it is said to provide relief from nervousness and restlessness. It is also said to alleviate the symptoms of sunburn, rheumatism and colds. However, it can irritate the stomach and intestinal mucosa if consumed in excess. In addition, when spikenard and crested lavender are used as essential oils, caution should be exercised because they can have the following effects, among others:
- liver damaging
Note: Breastfeeding and pregnant women, as well as babies, children, and elderly and sensitive people should use spikenard and crested lavender only under medical supervision.
What is edible?
Almost all parts of the lavandula plant can be used and/or processed in some form. The mildest and sweetest taste, however, comes from the flowers, which are also excellent for decorating salads and other dishes. Besides the flowers, the shoots and leaves are also edible. However, when eating lavender leaves, please note the following:
- Lavender leaves taste more resinous and bitter than flowers
- young leaves are best
- the older the leaves, the soapier the taste
Use in the kitchen
Lavender is often found in the herb mixture “Herbs of Provence”, after all, the useful plant is already firmly established in Italian and French cuisine. However, since the herb has a particularly intense aroma, it should be used sparingly to refine dishes. The aromatic plant gives a special touch to the following dishes, among others:
- Braised dishes
- Lamb and game
- Fish dishes
- Dishes with goat or sheep cheese
Tip: The herb can also give desserts that certain something extra by perfuming them with lavender sugar or lavender honey. Accordingly, the useful plant is also suitable for baking cookies and the like.
Lavender oil, lavender tea and co.
Lavandula can be consumed fresh or dried, but it can also be processed. Among other things, aromatic oils can be produced from the plant parts of lavender, which, depending on the variety, are also suitable for cooking. When buying lavender oil, however, make sure that it is one hundred percent pure oil of the true lavender. Likewise, the processed parts of the plant should be indicated.
The useful plant can also be processed into salt, vinegar or sugar. Another alternative is lavender tea, which is said to have a calming and relaxing effect. The hot drink is also quick and easy to prepare:
- Prepare 2 teaspoons of lavender flowers and 250 ml of water.
- strain after about 10 minutes
- Sweeten the tea as desired
Tip: Stevia or birch sugar can also be used as an alternative to conventional sugar!
Shelf life and storage
Freshly harvested lavender can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. However, if you want to enjoy the lavandula longer, you can also freeze or dry it. The latter option is particularly popular, as the drying process keeps the medicinal plant for around six months. If you want to dry the lavandula, it is best to proceed as follows:
- cut off individual stems
- tie the stems together to form a bouquet
- hang upside down
- in a dry, dark place
- then store in a sealed, airtight jar