Delicious lavender

A grower's guide to caring for -- and cooking with -- this fragrant summer flower

Photo: Maren Caruso
Favorite recipes

Lavender custard for fruit tarts. Start with a favorite recipe for custard but infuse the warmed milk with ¼ cup of chopped lavender flowers for each 2 cups of the liquid. Steep the mixture for an hour or two, then strain out the lavender before proceeding with the custard recipe. Fill tart shells with the custard, and top the custard with fresh fruit.

Lavender cookies. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of finely chopped lavender flowers to a favorite sugar cookie or shortbread recipe.

Floral honey. Steep 4 teaspoons of chopped lavender flowers for an hour in a cup of warm honey with a tablespoon of lemon or lime juice. Reheat the honey until it is liquefied, then strain out the lavender. Drizzle the flavored honey onto fresh toast that's been spread with sweet butter or cream cheese.

Lavender marinade. Combine chopped fresh or dried lavender with lemon juice and olive oil as a rub for pork or lamb. Marinate the meat in this mixture for several hours before grilling.

Growing tips

Lavenders are perennials that grow well in Sunset climate zones 4 through 24. (Find your climate zone.) They're drought-tolerant and deer-resistant.

• Plant in loose, fast-draining soil in a spot that gets full sun and good air circulation.

• Water plants until they're established (about a year), then irrigate mature plants about once a month.

• Fertilizer isn't necessary for lavenders; they can thrive without it.

• Avoid using pesticides on lavenders intended for culinary use. The plants shouldn't need them anyway.

• Harvest just as flowers open, and throughout the blooming season. Air-dry by hanging bunches upside down for a few days in a dark, cool place with good air circulation.

More: How to choose the right variety


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