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Lavender for Food and Health

The herb is a balm for many senses


      Once you learn how to grow lavender (covered in last week’s column) you’ll want to use it. The French put lavender in everything. They use it decoratively, for fragrance, in medicine, in cooking, in making liquers, in landscaping and for repelling moths. When you purchase a woolen product in France, it usually comes with a small bag of lavender to keep moths out. Lavender can keep its fragrance for many years.

      Harvest lavender when the flowers open from the bottom up. Cutting lavender flowers with a stem will encourage branching in the plant. Make small bunches of lavender, tie them with a string and hang them in an airy place with low humidity until dried.

      Once your lavender flowers have dried, you can use it in all sorts of things. You can crumble the dried flowers into a jar to preserve the aromatic oils or leave them whole on the stems for use in wreaths or arrangements. You can lightly squeeze the dried flowers to enjoy their relaxing fragrance. The scent of lavender can improve your mood and calm your mind. It is also good for skin issues.

      Make a lavender bath by gathering one cup of dried lavender buds. Add two cups of oatmeal and one-half cup of baking soda. Grind in a food processor until it turns into a smooth powder. Store in a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid. Fill little muslin bags with one-half cup and put in your bath as you run the hot water. Use the filled bag like a washcloth.

     Use any cultivar or Lavandula angustifolia for cooking. Lavender sugar is easy to make and can be sprinkled on cookies or cupcakes or added to tea. Pulse one tablespoon of dried lavender flowers and one cup of granulated sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Store in an airtight container.