Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ingredient and Medicine: Lavender!

Lavender - versatile, potent, adventurous, beautiful!

No matter what the calendar says - it's summer time in Texas. That means, mosquitoes are here. And if you don't have your very own personal pet bat circling you at all times, that means also: you'll get bitten, poked, sucked, the whole painful shebang.

Enter lavender! Or better, lavender essential oil. A drop of it on that mosquito bite bump and within 2-3 minutes you have forgotten the critter landing, the poke/slap/curse, and the pain. It is like none of that has ever happened. I love lavender!

Same with a burn. I'm a chef, I get burned. Not as much as during my practicing alcoholic years, when I spent many contemplative moments on figuring out mysterious blisters and scars, never quite remembering their originating events from days (weeks?) past. But still, every now and then a splash of hot oil finds a suitable spot on my exposed lower arm skin. Ouch! My very first First-Aid is a drop of lavender oil, gently rubbed onto the reddened patch. In many cases of lighter burns, the skin heals perfectly back to its normal appearance without any blisters or scars for life.

Most everyone knows about lavender as an ingredient in soap and perfume production. But did you know that lavender is on the FDA's GRAS list (Generally Recognized As Safe) for food additives? Whether you use the flowers or the essential oils - lavender has amazing benefits in addition to it's beautiful aroma. Ambiguously, it soothes or stimulates your system, depending on your needs. It's well worth it to learn more about lavender.

For many centuries, lavender has been used as an ingredient in French cuisine. They even let their baby lamb graze in lavender fields so the meat will be tender and fragrant. Candied lavender flowers for desserts or champagnes, dried blossoms added to stews and sauces, lavender essences for flans or sorbets - the possibilities are endless.

My own specialty food product, Agasweet flavored agave nectar, features a lavender-flavored variety. Many of my customers use it to flavor and sweeten their teas, especially green tea.

There is a whole new industry emerging around the Texas Hill Country - lavender fields wherever you look! The annual Lavender Festival in Blanco, TX draws hundreds of thousands of visitors into this beautiful area of Central Texas, home to the famous LBJ Ranch and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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