Written by Joe Orcutt from the Hood River Lavender Farm
Hood River Lavender is a collection of three organic lavender farms in the Columbia River Gorge area of Oregon. One of the farms is open to the public for tours and shopping, and hosts the annual Lavender DAZE Festival each July.
Here are some tips from Hood River Lavender's Joe Orcott on using lavender for cooking: Lavender is an herb, and one of the many members of the Mint family. Extremely versatile in cooking, it also adds nice color and garnish to a dish.
One of the more popular ways to use lavender is to create an “infusion” of lavender with the liquid used in a recipe. For example, in a cake recipe one would take the “liquid” called for in the instructions and put it into a pan on the stove with approx. 1 TBS of culinary lavender, bring the 2 ingredients to a simmer, remove from heat, cover and let “steep” for 10-20 minutes. Then merely filter the lavender out of the liquid let it cool to room temperature and use as called for in the recipe.
A word of caution here, less is better when using lavender in food. The goal is to create a background flavor, distinctive and mysterious with a lovely color, not a forefront flavor that can overpower food. You want the dish to have a slight addition of lavender to its aroma, not be like perfume.
All lavender can be safely eaten as long as it isn’t contaminated by sprays or toxic fertilizers. When it comes to cooking with it: What makes culinary more desirable than other lavenders is that culinary lavender is not so ‘perfumey.’ Any English (angustifolia) lavender is good for culinary. But some of the stronger scented lavender such as ‘Grosso’ can be used, one just needs to adjust the amount used because of its strong aroma/taste and understand that it will have a stronger ‘perfumey’ taste. We use select angustifolia lavender for culinary and choose the ones we use because of the favorable taste characterics like more ‘fruity’ and such.
When harvesting lavender from your garden, rub the buds off the stem by rolling it like you would playdough, and then – depending on your needs and preferences – you can either use them fresh or dry them.
For more information on the farm or their products, visit http://www.lavenderfarms.net/hoodriverlavender/index.html