We started growing culinary lavender in our garden two summers ago, then last summer had to move the plants to pots to make room for more vegetables. One of my lavenders didn’t fare well, but the other two were doing splendidly until the uber snow storms of 2010. They look rather spindly now, a mere shell of their glory last spring when the bees played among the purple flowers. So I’m starting over with a few new plants in the garden and hopefully a better location for them, and maybe we will once again harvest some beautiful lavender flowers next summer. At least I had a few buds leftover from last summer.
If you want to grow your own lavender for culinary uses, choose a Lavandula angustifolia rather than lavendin, the flavor is better suited for cooking. We grow Munstead and Hidcote, both of which are very common English varieties, as well as a variety called Buena Vista, which is winter hardy for our area. To harvest the flowers, simply cut the flower stems and make a bundle, then wrap a rubber band around the bottom. Hang upside down in a dark dry place for about a week or so, then gently remove the flowers from the stems. Store in a food safe tin or plastic container in the cupboard away from light.
Michael once considered lavender an acquired taste, but with this lemonade I think he is sold. The lavender is a flavor that mixes well with the strawberries and lemons, making me think of warm summer days in the flower garden. If lavender is a new flavor for you or if you prefer a hint of lavender, use just 1/2 tablespoon of the buds, or if you like a stronger lavender flavor go for the full tablespoon. It takes only a few minutes to prepare the strawberry lavender syrup, and it’s so worth it, plus it will make a delicious addition to any Memorial Day cookout.
I hope you will join us for Grow Your Own this year. Simply write about a dish you created with your homegrown, foraged, raised, or hunted foods (anything is welcome, whether plant or animal), and then send your post information to me at andreasrecipesgyo AT gmail DOT com. May 31 is the deadline for this month, and I will post a roundup of all the dishes a few days after.
STRAWBERRY LAVENDER LEMONADE
Adapted from Lemonade, by Fred Thompson.
Makes 1-1/2 quarts.
medium saucepan with a lid
wire mesh strainer
2-quart glass pitcher
10 fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced + more for garnish
1/2 to 1 tablespoon dried lavender buds
4-1/2 cups water
1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups granulated sugar, depending on the sweetness of the strawberries
2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. In the medium saucepan, add the 10 sliced strawberries, lavender buds, 2 cups of water, and the sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and cool to room temperature.
2. Place the wire mesh strainer over the top of the glass pitcher and pour the strawberry mixture through it. Set aside the leftover strawberries and lavender, they are good over ice cream. Stir in the remaining 2-1/2 cups water and the lemon juice. Cover the pitcher with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until very cold, at least 2 hours. Serve over ice with strawberry slices for garnish.
Bubbly lemonade: In step 2 omit the water. Just before serving, add 2-1/2 cups cold seltzer water.
Spiked lemonade: In step 2 add 1 cup of water and 1-1/2 cups of vodka.