By Barbara Porsch Herb enthusiast
In flower language, lavender means devotion. So what better herb to talk about right before Valentine’s Day than lavender, Lavandula spp.
Lavender has a long history. In the Bible, it was called spikenard, and before Passover, Mary used pure oil of nard to anoint Jesus’ feet. The Egyptians used it in their mummification process, and residue of lavender was found in the pyramids. From the Egyptians, the Greeks learned about perfumes and aromatic herbs, and then the Romans learned from the Greeks and used lavender to perfume themselves and their homes. They also used it to treat ailments. During the Renaissance period they also learned of its insect repellent properties when they discovered that the Plague was caused by lice on rats. Today it is a very good idea to put a lavender sachet in the drawers with your good woolen or cashmere sweaters to avoid moth damage. I speak from experience here.
Lavender can be used almost the same as you use rosemary. It is easy to find recipes for almost anything using lavender, but especially cookies, cakes and drinks like hot chocolate. As with rosemary and even lemon verbena, you can make lavender sugar by mixing a tablespoon of lavender petals and 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla with a cup or two of sugar. I do this in my food processor. Then you can use this sugar in cakes, sugar cookies, custards or a number of recipes. The ideas are endless.
Lavender likes our alkaline soil, but it must drain well because they do not like wet feet. They like full sun, but out here they might handle an hour or so of shade in late afternoon. Too much shade will cause them to be lanky and not bloom properly.
After becoming established, they do not need a lot of water.