Now before you skip over this, hear me out. Lavender, when used right, can bring incredible flavors to baked goods. It's also often used in Herbs de Provence. But those blends are made the right way without an over powering flavor. I have met many that don't 100% trust lavender flavored things, I've also come across some of these edible creations and see why so many get turned off. The littlest amount of lavender is needed to receive good flavor and so many overdo it.
If you are interested but worried about using lavender in your kitchen, you have come to the right place. First off I want to talk about the main types of lavender that are used in food and what kind of things they can be used in. Once we have some creative juices flowing I'm going to start sharing more lavender infused recipes to try at home with the amounts I prefer. At the end of the day always start with a little and you can add more. Some people are more sensitive and don't need as much. I like a lot of lavender but prepare my recipes on a more common ground so that more people enjoy them. Treat lavender like any herb or spice. Use more or less based on your preference.
Types of Lavender and Their Uses
When you looking into lavender and the species as a whole, there are so many types of lavender. Typically, when it comes to using in the kitchen there is one main type used but it isn't the only one. Araceli Farms (https://www.aracelifarms.com/) grows four different types of culinary grade lavender. I'm going to break down these four types, their flavors, and the best ways to use them.
Provence (Lavandula x intermedia)
Provence lavender is probably one of the most popular for food. It's actually a cross between two lavender species to create this specific variety. It's also the type that is used in Herbs de Provence. Yeah, that's right. You may have eaten lavender without even knowing it. Herbs de Provence is a staple herb blend for southern French cooking along the Mediterranean and has gained a lot of popularity around the globe. Like I mentioned above, lavender is a great flavor when used right.
With tight, pale purple buds, this lavender is what you will most likely get when you order just standard culinary lavender. It does have a strong lavender scent but when you try a bud on it's own, it's not as floral as you'd expect. It has a slight spiciness on the back of the pallet along with a lightness to it. Use this lavender for general use in recipes but it does go really well in savory aspects. Use some in a dry rub on chicken, or toss with some root vegetables and oil for a nice roasted veggie dish.
Royal Velvet (Lavandula Angustifolia)
Royal Velvet is a type of English Lavender. Its dark buds are beautiful to look at and use in dishes. When you eat a bud it has a very mellow lavender flavor and a slight sourness on the tip of the tongue. It's also a little sweet compared to some other lavenders. Because of the lighter flavor and the gorgeous color this is a great finishing lavender. Use it as a garnish on a dish for a pop of the beautiful shade or a slight lavender flavor to come across. Since it is so beautiful in its own form I don't like to use a lot of heat with this lavender so that it maintains its beauty.
Oh Melissa... Before I ever tired this lavender I read a lot about how amazing it is. When I finally got my hands on some, my high expectations were far surpassed by these little buds. When you first look at them you think they may not be that flavorful since they aren't the normal lavender color. The flowers are typically white and sometimes change into pink colors. While they don't have a lot of color, they make up for it in flavor. There is a slight lavender flavor when you try a bud but there's also a very strong herbiness, to me it was a light mix of rosemary and lavender. It also has a nice little spiciness to it that is a little bit spicier than Provence. This makes it an amazing choice for savory dishes. Use it in a rub or marinade on your choice of protein, grind and mix into a vinaigrette, or toss into any salad.
Folgate (Lavandula Angustifolia)
Folgate is the last lavender, and I saved it for last for a reason. It's my favorite one. It has a gorgeous color to it, not as deep at the Royal Velvet but close. It also has a very mild and sweet flavor. It's perfect for someone to test the waters of lavender with. My favorite part is that this lavender has the highest amount of medicinal properties. That's why this is my go to for baking and infusions. I love not only good flavor but other benefits that can come with using various ingredients. Use it in a sweet and delicate cake or cookie recipe, or add a little to your favorite tea for a lovely infusion with additional benefits!
What can I make with Lavender?
When it comes to flavor and how to use various ingredients I find the best way to start is to think of where it grows and what else grows there. Lavender originated around the Mediterranean and is very common in southern french cuisine. Once I target that area in the culinary world I can get a lot of ideas for lavender uses. That region of France eats a lot of poultry and game birds. Try a roasted chicken with some extra lavender in the seasoning or garnish with some Royal Velvet buds.
Lavender goes really well with fat of many types. Try a lavender infused butter to use in a dish. Cream can easily be infused with lavender to be used for both savory and sweet aspects. Potatoes gratin is a classic creamy French dish, try adding some lavender to the béchamel before assembling the final dish. Or use lavender infused cream in ice cream or a custard like crème brûlée!
The number one thing that lavender works in is baked goods. Cakes, pastries, cookies, shortbreads. The mixture of sugar and fat in baked goods creates a holy trinity with lavender to create incredible flavors. Try adding a little ground lavender into a vanilla cake, just a pinch or so and you'll have a lovely lavender cake. I love a good shortbread cookie with a dash of lavender in it. Top it with a simple vanilla glaze and I'll be eating those all day!
I highly recommend to everyone I know to use more herbs and spices in their cooking. There are so many flavors and flavor combinations that exist in the world, why stick with so few. Even if you are a little scared to mess things up just start small and use more each time until to find the balance that works for you. Cooking doesn't have to be scary, and using flavors you aren't used to shouldn't be either.
When you choose to invest in some new ingredients make sure your sources are good. Many plants are treated with chemicals and these can end up in your food. Look for herbs directly from farmers and ask them what they do! Most farmers love talking about their land and how they tend to it. That's a good sign when looking for the best in your food.