Lavender is often overlooked when it comes time to do the planting and management of your home herb garden. It’s relatively easy to grow and has lots of uses around the house, aside from just looking pretty and smelling nice, though it definitely does those things well.
Natural Disinfectant, Antiseptic, and Even a Bug Repellant
The lavender plant is already well known for its calming and soothing use as an aroma therapy, in lotions and bath products, etcetera, but the essential oil mixed with a bit of water can also be used as a natural disinfectant on surfaces and even on your hands.
If that’s not enough, crushing the plants and rubbing the oils on your arms and legs can serve as a fly and mosquito repellent while you’re outside working in the rest of the garden. It can also be used to soothe bug bites, stings, and the occasional scrape. The oils blended into a good lotion can help soothe a sunburn too.
Delicious Drinks and Foods
The fragrant and flowering plant is not often thought of as edible, but it certainly is and it makes a great addition to recipes, especially baked goods. You can add a bit to cakes and frostings for a special occasion treat that tastes like it came from the expensive bakery in town.
It also makes a wonderful calming hot tea that can help you relax for bedtime. A sprinkle of lavender in lemonade or while brewing iced tea is also quite refreshing and soothing on hot days.
If you’re feeling especially adventurous, it can even be used in salad dressings, syrups, sauces, and fresh made jams or jellies. My favorite is a little bit added to the blackberry jam on canning day – spread a bit of that on your toast in the morning, it’s simply amazing.
Around the House with Fragrances, Gifts, and Pretty Things
It wouldn’t do to leave out all the things that smell nice and look pretty when it comes to using fresh lavender from the garden. The freshly picked blooms from your herb garden will far outperform anything you buy at the store.
If you need a quick gift on the fly for a hostess or for a friend, you can make a lavender wreath, put together a scented sachet, a bit of potpourri, sew a custom eye mask, or just cut off a transplant and put it into a pretty pot or mason jar to give them their own plant to grow.
Around the house you can freshen the carpets with dried plants, make a room spray with the essential oils, and decorate with fresh blooms in vases alongside a few other wild flowers or all on their own.
If you’re just looking to relax, a lavender bath is great for your skin. The great thing here is you can experiment with different forms of the plant in the bath – you can add fresh or dried sprigs to the hot water, or you can use the essential oil and some Epsom salts. No matter how you use it here, it’s sure to be relaxing and rejuvenating.
Now that we’ve gone over a few of the reasons you might want to plant some lavender in your home herb garden, it’s time to go out and play in the dirt and make a little space for a few plants. You’ll be glad you did.
Growing Tips & Facts:
Like basil, oregano, and thyme, lavender is also a member of the mint family. As with other members of this family of plants, lavender prefers a nice sunny location with very well-drained soil. Ideal growing conditions for lavender are hot and dry.
There are several cultivars available, but English lavender is the most popular. It is also the variety most used in cooking.
English lavender is actually native to the Mediterranean. It got its name because it is can withstand the more wet and humid weather conditions found in that country.
Tips for Using & Storing Lavender
A good rule of thumb when cooking with lavender is to remember that a little goes a long way. Start with small amounts and slowly add more until the desired result is achieved. Adding too much at once can leave your dishes taking like potpourri.
Also, if you buy lavender (vs. grow your own), be sure to select “culinary grade” because a lot of commercially available lavender is not safe to be consumed.
You can harvest small amounts of lavender from your own garden when the plant is 2 years old. The third year and beyond will yield a much larger harvest. Use garden sheers or a curved blade to cut through the tough stems.
Lavender can be enjoyed in both sweet and savory dishes. Fresh lavender looks beautiful and tastes great when tossed in salads or as a key ingredient in homemade ice cream. It can also be used in place of rosemary in breads and marinades.
You can also strip the leaves off of dried stems and then use the stems as kabobs for grilled shrimp or fruit. This will infuse the food with a lovely flavor.