There simply is no substitute for fresh herbs in cooking and baking. The dried, purchased ones are too old to hold much flavor and aroma. So, whenever I start a garden, I make sure to include every herb I can. I preserve my own herbs for use in the cold season and use them fresh during the growing season. I make my own pesto, chamomile tea, and lavender sachets for sleep. Two of my top favorite must have herbs are lavender and rosemary.
Ways to Use Lavender
At this writing, I currently have the stems from my lavender bushes drying on a rack. After they dry a bit, I rub them off the stems, bag them, and freeze them. I don’t throw away the stems but put them in the bath to release their scent. I use the flowers in a sachet to help me sleep, and also in cooking and baking. Lavender in lemon muffins is something everyone must try.
As a constantly sleep deprived, insomniac, I can’t live without my fresh lavender in the garden. The plant is very cold hardy, which makes it perfect here, and it blooms prolifically in summer. It will even give me a second bloom if I deadhead. As an added bonus, lavender in cooking adds a unique flavor to meats and stews. I make my own Herbes de Provence which includes lavender, basil, mint, fennel seed, thyme, rosemary, and a few other herbs— all of which I grow. I have several varieties of lavender, each of which has a slightly different scent and flavor.
Paired with my lavender quite frequently, is rosemary. Among the many rosemary uses is its pest repelling ability, and the lavender works well too. When I am in the garden, I rub either herb on my exposed bits to keep flies and other peskies away. It works very well, and I don’t have to resort to a chemical formula to stay comfortable. I have several of each plant because they are stoic, easy to grow, and I love the scent and color they bring to the garden. I have even tried growing rosemary as a topiary in a container, with quite lovely results. The ones in the garden I let grow naturally with arching, swinging branches.
A few of the other fun things I have done by combining these herbs are scenting soap and making an oil. The soap is refreshingly fresh smelling, while the oil is used as an air freshener, in the wash, on my hair, and I have even made candles with it. The combination is intoxicating, bright, and lively. One of the more important uses of the oil is for improving memory. Apparently, rosemary has been used for centuries to enhance cognition and retention. I am getting old, so why not?
More Herbal Uses
Bread is getting really pricy these days, so I have been making my own. I have 10 million zucchinis to use, so I made lavender, lemon, zucchini loaves. These are perfect when I host a brunch and freeze beautifully without sacrificing the flavor. Since I love sourdough, I put my starter to use and made rosemary sourdough. The possibilities with these herbs are nearly endless due to their aromatherapy properties and culinary uses.
I have grown both of these herbs for decades and used them mercilessly. I can’t really imagine not having these gorgeous, delightfully scented plants in my garden. They don’t ask much from me and they really bring in the pollinators when they are blooming. We call it bee T.V. and love watching the busy bees zip in and out for some nectar.
It’s lunchtime, so I am going to cut some rosemary sourdough and make a sandwich, then get out into the yard. There is something so satisfying about growing your own food and medicine. I will work in the garden with a smug smile of satisfaction.