Tess on the Town: The virtues of lavender

QUICKREAD

WHAT: “Spike It With Lavender: Recipes for Living” cookbook.

WHERE: Mesa County Extension Service office or order at coloradolavender.org/cookingwithlavender.html.

COST: $11.95.



Lida Lefferty was just looking for a tasty snack for her honeybees, when she stumbled on what would become a passion in her life.

After experimenting with sage and yarrow on her 2 1/2?acre homestead in the Redlands, she planted lavender and discovered that her bees loved it.

“I could barely harvest it for the bees, they were just all over it,” Lefferty said.

From there, she began experimenting with the culinary properties of the herb. Turns out, bees aren’t the only lovers of lavender.

Today, Lefferty has more than 100 lavender plants on her property, including varieties such as Melissa, Katherine, Buena Vista, Croxtons and Provence. Thousands of tiny flowers on the willowy stems range from white to pink to violet to deep purple. Lavender is easy to grow and doesn’t need a lot of attention, Lefferty said.

Last year, Lefferty published a cookbook titled “Spike It With Lavender: Recipes for Living.” When the book was introduced at last year’s Lavender Festival in Palisade, it sold out.

The cookbook has culinary, household uses, bath and body sections, and fun lavender projects to do with the kids.

Lefferty, who describes herself as “just as a home gardener and home cook,” is a speech pathologist by trade and a founding member of the Lavender Association of Western Colorado. In her spare time, when there is any, she helps her husband install ski lifts.

The cookbook is her way of “promoting healthy recipes with fresh, sustainable, local products,” she said.

Lavender is great paired with Palisade peaches and other fruits and “Spike It With Lavender” contains many sweet concoctions, such as peach raspberry lavender sorbet, lavender mint punch, lavender-infused honey and herbal teas.

She dishes up the recipes of some noted local restaurants that use the herb, including Il Bistro Italiano’s lavender cheesecake and the DoubleTree By Hilton’s lavender biscotti.

TV chef and baker Warren Brown, owner of CakeLove in Washington, D.C., collaborated with her for a chewy lavender cookie recipe.

Lavender has an elusive taste, according to Lefferty. She best describes it as a conductor, an herb that makes other flavors pop. “It’s best using sparingly, as you would, say, sage or rosemary,” she said.

But don’t think it’s used only in the realm of sweet, lavender also is used in many savory meals.

Here are a couple to make your mouth water: salmon in a wine and lavender sauce, lavender scalloped potatoes, dry roasted lavender with buttery eggs on toast and anything slathered in lavender butter. It goes without saying the Herbs de Provence figure prominently in a few of the recipes.

Because Lefferty and her fellow lavender buffs constantly are learning and experimenting with the herb, the cookbook is in a three-ring binder so new sections can be added. Already, she has published a 2012 addition to last year’s creation.

If you’re looking for a lavender source, try the Lavender Association of Western Colorado’s website. Or, plant your own and see what sprouts.

Here are a couple recipes from Lefferty:

Herbs de Provence

Used for marinating meats, fish and veggies and is especially good with grilled foods. There are many variations of this recipe.

2 parts dried rosemary

2 parts dried marjoram

1 part dried winter savory

1 part dried oregano

½ part dried lavender flowers

½ part dried peppermint leaves

Mix all ingredients, store in a dark, dry place in airtight container.

 

Lavender Sugar

2 cups granulated sugar

2 sprigs lavender

Place ingredients in a jar, keep in warm place and shake container daily. Strain out lavender from sugar with a sieve before using.

 

QUOTE: “If variety is the spice of life, marriage is the big can of leftover Spam.” e_SEmD Johnny Carson, oft-married late comedian

 

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