Lavender — The Lavenders Lavandula are a genus of about 25-30 species of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae, native from the Mediterranean region south to tropical Africa and to the southeast regions of India. The genus includes annuals, herbaceous plants, subshrubs, and small shrubs. The native range extends across the Canary Islands, North and East Africa, south Europe and the Mediterranean, Arabia, and India. Because the cultivated forms are planted in gardens world-wide, they are occasionally found growing wild, as garden escapees, well beyond their natural range.
Lavenders are widely grown in gardens. Flower spikes are used for dried flower arrangements. The fragrant, pale purple flowers and flower buds are used in potpourris. Dried and sealed in pouches, they are placed among stored items of clothing to give a fresh fragrance and as a deterrent to moths. The plant is also grown commercially for extraction of lavender oil from the flowers. This oil is used as an antiseptic and for aromatherapy.
Lavender flowers yield abundant nectar which yields a high quality honey for beekeepers. Lavender monofloral honey is produced primarily in the nations around the Mediterranean, and marketed worldwide as a premium product. Lavender flowers can be candied and are used as cake decoration. Lavender is also used as a herb, either alone or as an ingredient of herbes de Provence. Lavender is also used to flavour sugar, the product being called “lavender sugar”, and the flowers are sometimes sold in a blend with black tea, as “lavender tea”.
French chefs in and around Provence, France have been incorporating this herb into their cuisine for many centuries. Lavender lends a floral, slightly sweet and elegant flavour to most dishes. For most cooking applications it is the dried buds (also referred to as flowers) of lavender that are utilised, though some chefs experiment with the leaves as well. It is the buds however that contain the essential oil of lavender, which is where both the scent and flavour of lavender are best derived.