Lavender's Many Uses

I am not aware of any particular association of Lammas and lavender (except for the lovely alliteration of those twin L's), except that it blooms at Lammastide in Seattle.

When I took a nine-week class on herbs from a local herbalist, EagleSong of RavenCroft Garden, she assigned us all the task of getting to know one plant. We were to spend time with it, daily if possible, and get to know it in every possible way, from the scientific study of its components to its many medicinal and culinary uses. The plant I chose was lavender, a favorite of mine before, but now it is entwined with my life on a much more intimate basis.

The name lavender comes from the Latin verb "to wash;" both the Romans and Greeks scented soap and bathwater with the herb. In the Middle Ages, it was considered a herb of love. Kate Greenaway in Language of the Flowers says it means distrust. But another source (from before the days when I became scrupulous about writing down bibliographic information) says it means constancy and loyalty, sweetness and undying love, "fervent but silent heart," and good luck. That's how I feel about it.

It's a herb of Mercury. Perhaps that's why Linda Ours Rago in The Herbal Almanac says that lavender stimulates the brain and makes learning easier. Starhawk in The Spiral Dance lists it as a plant to be used in working spells for love, money and business, creative work and psychic work.

For a thorough discussion of lavender, even including information on how to distill it, see the entry at, from A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve

How to Make Lavender "Wands"

You will need:

• Fresh lavender buds, (before they open up into fs), an uneven number (at least 7 for a good wand) The more you have, the fatter the wand.

• Your favorite color of ribbon (The amount will vary depending on the size of buds & number of them) I work with it off of the spool in order not to waste any. I usually make small wands of only 7, so I use 1/8", but you can use 1/4" as well.

• Scissors of course (To harvest, cut ribbon, and trim stems)

When you cut the f you want to keep as much of the stem as possible. You can cut below the pair of leaves that appear half way down the stem but don't pick them off until you're finished. The stem is more brittle there and you need to be careful when working around this area so leaving them on keeps the area marked for you.

Hold the uneven number of fs together, being sure to line up the bottom buds. Take the end of the ribbon and tie the stems with a knot just below the bottom buds. Turn upside down and carefully bring the stems down over the ribbon knot and f buds. Even a fresh stem will sometimes fray some, but they usually will not break off.

Tuck in the small end of the ribbon and pull out the loose end still attached to the spool. Going clockwise start weaving over and under. Proceed with caution especially if there are any frayed stems at the beginning. Once they are woven in a couple of rounds it won't bother them any more, but still be careful not to pull the stems up too far as you weave or they may bend and fray elsewhere. Also pay close attention to which stem comes next because they can become entangled as you weave,(especially curved stems). Tighten as you go again taking care. Tuck in buds.

Continue to weave over and under down the stems until you have woven over all of the buds and then at least one more round. Finally tie off the ribbon in a knot. You can leave this as is with a tail hanging down or put a bow of the same color or maybe lace. Trim the stems straight across or as I prefer, on a diagonal. Keep as much or as little as you like. If you leave alot on I suggest you put another ribbon or lace bow at the bottom of the stems to keep them together.
Once you are finished you can put them in your closet, in your dresser, or for a personal touch you could place one or two in a gift box for someone that you are giving a garment to.

If you don't grow lavender in your garden, (what a shame, plant some!), maybe your neighbor or someone you know does and you can exchange some fresh cuts for a wand in return! Have fun with some simple weaving and enjoy the long lasting scent!


Living in Season: Lavender Metheglyn

Yesterday I was in my garden, harvesting my lavender which had reached the blossom stage, trying to work my way through the interwoven stalks while avoiding the short black bee with the yellow head who was buzzing around visiting the buds (his buddies were sleeping — or tranced out in the nearby rosemary). The combination of bees and lavender reminded me of the recipe for lavender methlegin that I received last year from a longtime student of the seasons, Karen A., and I realized that it's just an attempt to duplicate what the bees do naturally: making honey from the sweet scent of lavender.

I first learned about metheglyn in one of my favorite historical novels, The White Witch, first published in 1958 and written by one of my favorite novelists, Elizabeth Goudge. It's the story of Froniga, a half-Gypsy woman who heals with herbs during the time of Cromwell. "Her religion was entirely individual, an astonishing mixture of Christianity, white witchcraft, Romany and fairy lore and quite sublime faith in her own powers." (Not a bad definition for anyone's religion, I think) Goudge also stuffs the novel full of delicious snippets of herb lore and folk customs.

One of Froniga's herbal remedies is metheglyn. The OED notes that the word metheglyn comes from the Welsh meddyglyn, which mean healing liquor, and defines it as a medicinal variety of mead peculiar to Wales. Froniga flavored her metheglyn with sweetbriar roses. This recipe uses lavender flowers instead.

Lavender Metheglyn

Batch size: 1 gallon

4 lb honey
1 pint lavender flowers
? t citric acid
? t tannin powder
? t champagne yeast
1 t yeast nutrient

Boil together honey and ? gal water for 5 min. Put flowers with citric acid and tannin in a gallon jug and pour the hot liquid over. Let cool in a sink of cold water to room temperature, then add yeast and nutrient and further water to make a gallon plus a pint. Add an airlock to your gallon jar. Let ferment 1 week, then strain out the flowers. Set the lock on again and ferment until it's clear, about 112 days. Bottle and age for at least 109 days.

This recipe comes from H.E. Bravery's recipe for rhodomel in his book Home Brewing Without Failures. As with all fermented beverages, be careful when storing the results. If improperly bottled, it may explode.

A much simpler way of making lavender medicine is to pour about 1/2 a cup of lavender buds into a pint bottle of cheap brandy. Let sit for at least 2 weeks (I just leave the flowers in the brandy and strain them out when I use it, but it depends on how strong a lavender flavor you like.) I keep this in my potion cupboard and put a shot into a cup of hot tea which I drink right before bedtime whenever I have a winter cold.

Froniga also combined the petals of red damask roses and purified honey with alcohol to make melrosette, another healing potion that is not fermented.

Rhodomel is simply another name for this concoction, according to the OED. In her book, The Art of Cooking with Roses, Jean Gordon notes that rose honeys are popular in England where they are used for colds, coughs and infections. The following recipe for rose honey comes from Jeanne Rose's book, Herbs & Things:

Pour 2 cups of boiling water over 2 ounces of dried red rose petals (make sure they were not sprayed) and let stand for 10 hours. Then strain and press the liquor out of the rose petals and combine it with 1-1/2 pounds of organic honey. Boil to a thick syrup.

I imagine you could make a similar mixture with lavender buds and honey.

Lavender is also showing up more and more in food, where it adds a delightful and unusual flavor. One of my favorite recipes for cooking with lavender comes from an old issue of House and Garden. Make it for Ice Cream Day, July 23rd.

Lavender Ice Cream

I got this recipe for from an old issue of House and Garden magazine. Make it for Ice Cream Day, July 23rd.

2 oz superfine sugar 1/2 oz lavender petals
Put the sugar and lavender in a saucepan and melt over medium heat until brown and caramelized. Pour into a greased tray, cool, then grind to a fine powder.

Ice Cream:
1 cup milk
1 sprig lavender
4 egg yolks
2 oz superfine sugar
1 cup heavy cream, lightly whipped

Bring the milk containing the lavender sprig to a boil. Remove from heat and cover. Let infuse for 30 minutes in a warm place. Meanwhile beat the yolks and sugar together until creamy. Remove the lavender sprig from the milk and whisk the milk into the sugar mixture. Heat slowly. Stir constantly until the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon. Cool. Fold the whipped cream gently and thoroughly into the custard. Spoon into a deep freezer container. Cover and put in the freezer. When the ice cream is half frozen, stir in the praline mix and refreeze. Stir well once more before the ice cream sets hard. Makes 1- 1/2 pints.

Bravery, H.E., Home Brewing Without Failures, out of print.
Gordon, Jean, Cooking with Roses, Walker & Company 1968
Rose, Jeanne, Herbs & Things, Grosset & Dunlap, 1972

Lavender Cheesecake

(Adapted from a recipe I found on the web site of the Happy Valley Lavender Farm)

2 cups shortbread cookies
5 T melted butter
lavender praline (from above recipe)
Crumble cookies into crumbs, stir in the butter and praline and press into a 9" spring form pan. Chill.

3 T fresh lavender
2 1/2 T boiling water
3/4 cup honey
1 cup (8 oz) cream cheese
1-1/4 cups heavy whipping cream

Make a lavender infusion by steeping the lavender in the boiling water for 15 minutes, then strain out the lavender. Beat together the honey and cream cheese. Add the lavender infusion. Whip the whipping cream and fold into the lavender cream cheese mix. Pour into the crust. Chill 3 to 4 hours.

Lavender Cooler

Mary Preus served this lavender-flavored iced tea at tea parties at her Silver Bay herb farm in Silverdale, Washington. You can make it without the tea, although she notes that it adds body.

4 cups boiling water
20 fresh lavender flower heads with stems
2 teaspoons Earl Grey tea (optional)
1/2 cup light honey
juice of 2 oranges
Lavender sprigs and orange slices for garnishing

Pour boiling water over the lavender blossoms and tea. Steep for ten minutes. Strain and add the honey and orange juice. Chill. When serving, layer ice, lavender sprigs and orange slices in a pitcher. Add the Lavender Cooler and serve.

Lavender Lemonade

1/4 cup fresh lavender blossoms (or 1 T dried)
1 cup sugar
5 cups water
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

Mix the sugar with 2-1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil in a saucepan, stirring to be sure the sugar dissolved. Add the lavender to the hot sugar syrup. Remove from the heat and let steep at least 20 minutes, and up to several hours. Strain out the lavender. Add the lemon juice and remaining 2-1/2 cups water. Stir—the color will change. Serve garnished with lavender sprigs.

From Happy Valley Lavender Farm

Lavender Margaritas

1 cup tequila
1/3 cup triple sec
1/4 cup limeade concentrate
1 cup canned coconut milk
2 cups frozen unsweetened raspberries
2 cups frozen unsweetened blueberries
4 ice cubes
1 teaspoon dried lavender buds

In a blender, combine the tequila, triple sec, coconut milk, and lime juice. Cover and turn to high speed, then gradually add berries and ice. Whirl until smooth and slushy. Pour into glasses. You can rub glass rims with lime and dip the rim in salt. Add a lavender sprig for garnish.

Joyce MacGowan, Owl Creek Lavender Farm

EagleSong, Ravencroft Garden
Greenaway, Kate, Language of Flowers, Averill Books
Preus,Mary, The Northwest Herb Lover's Handbook, Sasquatch Books 2000
Rago, Linda Ours, The Herbal Almanac, Starwood Publishing 1992
Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, Harper & Row 1979
Lavender Recipes online:
Many recipes
Lavender Cheesecake & Lavender Lemonade
Lavender Margaritas
Also type in "lavender" as a search word at