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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why is Lavender So Popular?

Lavender flowers.
In researching the Top Ten Most Popular Herbs in America in recent years, I was amazed to find that lavender is the number two most popular herb for gardeners. That surprised me simply because I don’t know alot of people who actually use lavender. Most people seem to grow lavender just to have it in the garden.
Lavender needs to have well-drained soil to be happy.

Lavender is hardy in Missouri and Arkansas, not marginally so, but fully, totally hardy, provided you live by lavender’s rules. Lavender needs good drainage or its roots rot. That means grow it on a berm or in a raised bed. Don’t dig around lavender, it has very shallow, easily damaged roots. Don’t put a heavy mulch around the plants - pine needles work exceptionally well. Give the plant some garden lime each spring, and be sure to prune lavender back by at least half in February or early March. Lastly, stick to Hidcote or Mustead, both reliably hardy lavender varieties.

So if lavender is the number two most popular herb in America, what can you do with it? First, there’s the seasoning blend named Herbs de Provence, once connected to that region of France and containing lavender, savory, fennel, basil and thyme. It was used to flavor grilled foods, meats and fish, as well as in chicken stews. Maybe lavender is better known now as an ingredient in ice cream and cookies. Our lavender is in bloom here at the farm this week and I’ll be making cookies. Here’s the recipe:
Lavender cookies are so good you can't eat just one!

Jim's Lavender Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup additional sugar
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 3 Tablespoons fresh or dry lavender flowers in the food processor and pulse blend until the flowers are well chopped. Set aside.

Cream the butter and 1 cup of flour in the food processor until the sugar is well dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients, including the sugar-lavender mixture and pulse blend just until the dough is mixed. Roll out the dough in tablespoon-sized balls in your hands, then roll that in the reserved sugar and place about 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake for 8-9 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. Bake a minute longer if you like dryer cookies, or take out at the 8-9 min. mark for softer, chewier cookies. Makes about 16 cookies.

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