Posted by Bangzkie Sunday, March 18, 2012
The lavenders (botanic name Lavandula) are a genus of 39 species of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. It is an Old World genus, found from Cape Verde and Canary Islands, southern Europe across to northern and eastern Africa, the Mediterranean, south-west Asia to south-east India. Many members of the genus are cultivated extensively in temperate climates as ornamental plants for garden and landscape use, and also commercially for the extraction of essential oils.
The native range extends across the Canary Islands and Madeira, North and East Africa, Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, Arabia and India. Some of its members are found as naturalised plants and weeds elsewhere. It is thought the genus originated in Asia but it is most diversified in its western distribution.
The accounts provided here apply mostly to those plants grown for ornament and for oil extraction, which are all from the Mediterranean region.
Flowers yield abundant nectar from which bees make a high-quality honey. Monofloral honey is produced primarily around the Mediterranean, and is marketed worldwide as a premium product. Flowers can be candied and are sometimes used as cake decorations. Lavender flavors baked goods and desserts (it pairs especially well with chocolate), and is also used to make "lavender sugar". Lavender flowers are occasionally blended with black, green, or herbal tea, adding a fresh, relaxing scent and flavor. Though it has many other traditional uses in southern France, lavender is not used in traditional southern French cooking. It does not appear at all in the best-known compendium of Provençal cooking, J.-B. Reboul's Cuisinière Provençale In the 1970s, a herb blend called herbes de Provence usually including lavender was invented by spice wholesalers, and lavender has more recently become popular in cookery. Lavender lends a floral and slightly sweet flavor to most dishes, and is sometimes paired with sheep's-milk and goat's-milk cheeses. For most cooking applications the dried buds (also referred to as flowers) are used, though some chefs experiment with the leaves as well. Only the buds contain the essential oil of lavender, from which the scent and flavor of lavender are best derived. In the United States, both lavender syrup and dried lavender buds are used to make lavender scones and marshmallows.