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Wednesday, March 17, 2004

All About Lavender

For a number of years now there has been a migration of sorts. Sweet, fresh and fruity flavors found in the kitchen have made it into bath and body products and conversely floral scents have headed for the kitchen. On any trip to the drugstore or supermarket you can find apple shampoo, vanilla scented body lotion, citrus ginger body wash etc. Meanwhile in upscale markets in the produce section you can find edible flowers. In addition to using flowers as a pretty garnish there are actual recipes using the petals of roses, chive blossoms, banana flowers, nasturtiums and the like. One flower that seems to be gaining in popularity is lavender.

Anyone who knows Latin or almost any romance language may recognize that lavender comes from the Latin word "lavare" which means to wash. Lavender has antiseptic properties and has traditionally been used in soap. So a lavender liquid dish soap is a natural. Aromatherapists claim that lavender will relax and calm you, just what you need when facing a sink full of dishes. There are more than a few artificially lavender scented dishwashing soaps arriving on the market, but if you want to spoil your personal dishwasher--in my case my husband, find something with natural ingredients and aromatherapy properties like Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Dish Soap. Mrs Meyer's is also biodegradable, not tested on animals and doesn't contain ammonia, chlorine or phosphates. Check out the web site to find where to purchase this product.

Two interesting products make using lavender in cooking a snap. Lavender grown in a kitchen garden was the inspiration for an infused syrup from Sonoma Syrup Company. They suggest using it in beverages like lemonade, iced tea and cocktails and with fruit in salads and sorbets. It can also be used in savory preparations like marinades and vinaigrettes, making it the perfect thing to have on hand for spring and summer entertaining. Right now this product is available from various online sources, and at places like Copia, but expect it to be carried more widely soon.

Another surprisingly delicious lavender product is Cedar Rock Lavender Pepper. While you can make lavender pepper yourself using culinary grade lavender blossoms and pepper, Cedar Rock also includes some other ingredients like orange peel to perk it up. If you've ever used herbs de provence you may recall the scent of the Mediterranean that fills the air when lavender heats up in the kitchen or on the grill. A perfect accent to a seared ahi tuna or on a warm goat cheese crostini, lavender pepper also works well with sweet dishes like lavender pepper cornmeal cookies, to flavor a panna cotta or sprinkled on poached pears or apples. It is available online only and makes an inexpensive hostess gift.