Discover the Best Lavender for Cooking

Discover the Best Lavender for Cooking

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

In early July I was invited to a potluck picnic for Edible Cleveland magazine. Potlucks push my overachiever button and I wanted to impress my fellow writers. So, I challenged myself to making something apropos of the magazine — local, seasonal and organic. As the blogmaster for The Herb Society of America I thought it would be fun to reflect my passion for herbs.

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Lavender scones seemed like a great idea, but they just weren’t impressive enough. So, I picked up The Art of Cooking with Lavender by Nancy Baggett. There I found a recipe for lavender chicken salad.

 

(The boyfriend said he’d chose Wendy’s over lavender-spiked food, but he ate the chicken salad without notice.)

My next step was to gather significant ingredients … free-range, organic chicken from New Creation Farm in Chardon, Ohio, and lavender from Luvin’ Lavender in Madison, Ohio. That’s where I learned that not all lavender is created equal when it comes to the kitchen.

20170630_150338 (2)Luvin’ Lavender grows 19 varieties, with a seven best suited to culinary use. That’s because each variety has subtle (or even bold) taste differences. Some are sweeter or more floral; others have a stronger camphor component.

Having learned from the owner Laurie H, I turned to my friend Edgar Anderson of Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm, Shop & Le Petit Bistro on Washington Island in Door County, Wisconsin, with more questions on lavender in the kitchen. Anderson and his wife Martine operate a 21-acre farm with 14,000 plants – 10 varieties — on five acres of land. In addition to their Washington Island retail shop, they operate another retail shop in Fish Creek, WI and a bistro with a lavender-based menu.

“For cooking, it’s best to stay within the English varieties – Lavendula angustifolia,” he says.  The most commonly found L. angustifolias as retail are ‘Hidcote’, ‘Munstead’ and ‘Royal Velvet’.

“Within the English there are minute nuances. They’re usually very sweet in taste and smell. One might be more lemony or flowery, but all are easy to work with in the kitchen,” says Edgar. Fragrant Isle uses royal velvet in most of their edible products.

English lavender is usually harvested from June through July. Fragrant Isle harvests twice, once for buds and once for distilling into oil. Harvesting for dry buds – unopened flowers – is done by hand. Flower stems are cut and made into small bundles tied with rubberbands.

mediakit07The bundles hang in a barn for six weeks until they’re dry enough to separate purple flower buds from gray-green stems. While the farm mechanizes separation, home growers can gently shake or brush the crop into a bag or onto a cloth.

Leaves, stems and debris should not be part of the process . “You don’t want them because they will give a grassy scent to your cooking. We have vibrating sifting screens to remove debris. They go through three different screenings.” At home colanders and mesh sifters might be useful.

DSC_1908The culinary lavender oil is distilled from fresh lavender bundles.   The fresh lavender bundles are placed in their copper still, usually 40 pounds of fresh lavender bundles, and once the water reaches 212 degrees F, the lavender is “cooked” for 90 minutes.   Then the lavender flowers release their essential oil and hydrosol, which are captured in a glass container.   The essential oil, being lighter than water floats to the top.   Once the hydrosol is drained, the essential oil remains and is placed in a glass bottle.   Culinary essential oil is used for baking, as it is more potent than culinary lavender buds.

Once processed Fragrant Isle either uses the lavender in the bistro or packages it for sale. Home growers should put it in a sealed container – preferably glass — and store away from humidity.


AK1D2050-2Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm & Shop, is hosting its 3rd Annual “All Things Lavender” Festival Friday, July 21 – Sunday, July 23, 2017.  Festival highlights include daily seminars presented by Lavender Industry Experts, Experiences to explore one’s inner artist with painting classes, pampering with massages, Destiny Readings, Lavender U-Pick Field, Entertainment by Musical performers & Washington Island Scandinavian Folk Dancers and Food be it a taste of “lavender,” from sweet to savory, exquisite chocolates, Apple Lavender Cider, or Light Belgian style beer with bright lavender and honey tones.

What to do with Garlic Scapes

What to do with Garlic Scapes

20170701_124331At the Willoughby, Ohio, Farmers Market my farmer friend Maggie Fusco handed me a blue plastic grocery bag half full of garlic scapes. There must have been 100 of those long, circled flower stalks that must be trimmed from hardneck garlic to make certain energy goes back into the bulb. What was I supposed to do with so many scapes? Thank goodness she shared her weekly newsletter … it was full of ideas. — Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster

By Maggie Fusco, Wood Road Salad Farm, Madison, Ohio

You can chop ‘em and saute’ ‘em…..

You can pesto and puree’ ‘em…..

You can roast ‘em

You can toast ‘em

You can grill ‘em

You can swill ‘em?

You can eat ‘em on a boat

You can eat ‘em with a goat

You can use ‘em now or freeze for later

Either way it doesn’t matter

Get ‘em soon while they last

Like all things seasonal

They come and go so fast!

What am I rhyming about? Garlic Scapes of course!

image003Botanically speaking, the scape is any leafless flower stalk. The flower of the well-known Hosta plant falls into the classification of scape as do the flowers of many other plants. Each garlic produces one scape. If the scape is left on the garlic plant it will flower and produce seeds. (The wild garlic you tell me you have in your yard is spread this way.)

 

image007Cutting the scape from the garlic plant helps it focus more energy into making a bigger bulb underground (good for us) rather than making seed up top which is its real job in life. Turns out the garlic scape is not only edible – it has mild garlic/green flavor — it’s delightful to eat!

20170703_142646So, how can we use the scapes? Any way you already use garlic you can use scapes instead or treat them as would fresh young green beans.

Chop and sauté along with any dish or make a simple pesto by blending with olive oil for fresh use or to freeze for later. Braid them into wreaths and roast or grill them. Cut them into uniform lengths and make refrigerator pickles.  (NOTE: I mix the pesto into mayonnaise and serve with burgers, amazing. – PW)

20170703_145548Scapes are most likely found in July at farmer’s markets in Northeast Ohio.  They keep nicely wrapped in plastic for up to a month.


Maggie Fusco and Justin Kopczak own Wood Road Salad Farm in Madison Ohio. They have been happily married and growing great produce since 2002.  They call their fields a “salad” farm because in the beginning they grew mostly lettuces and greens but then one crop led to another, and every season became a new adventure in growing and eating.

 

Herbs Add Interest to Beer

Herbs Add Interest to Beer

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

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Copyright Ohio University

In late June I took my youngest son to orientation at Ohio University where he plans to study biology with the goal of finding a job in environmental science. (His mom’s influence, perhaps?) For the two-day introduction parents and students separated for sessions of different focus. Up to this point, no problem.

But … let’s just say I’m GPS–challenged. Faced with too many one-way streets and no co-pilot, I looped the campus twice before finding the assigned parking lot. After an already long day of bouncing among buildings, I walked yet another half mile – with luggage – to the dorm room check-in line. Then, by streetlight I trudged another quarter mile and lugged my stuff up three flights of stairs … only to find broken air conditioning.

Overcome by emotions and fatigue I was near tears. A kind gentleman on the orientation staff helped me relocate. Requiring some self-medication I asked him to recommend a place for beer … something within easy walking distance.

20170701_180035His suggestion: Jackie O’s Public House in uptown Athens, Ohio.

To my delight, the brewers are playful and many of their beers use unlikely ingredients. Yes, that includes herbs … a trend that you’ll read more about in the 2018 edition of The Herbarist.

Upon hearing I like bitter, hoppy beer, Bartender Bruce thunked two brews on the wooden bar top – Jackie O’s New Growth Summer Spruce Tip IPA and Jackie O’s Next Level Lager (the first India Pale Lager I’ve ever seen) – and waited for my facial expressions to change. The Lager was good, but the IPA was amazing. The reason, perhaps, was the inclusion of lemon balm and spruce tips in the brewing process. Both are grown on a farm owned by Jackie O’s.

A few swallows and my problems buzzed away. The spruce tips enhanced a fresh piney bitterness and I suspect the lemon balm added a clean and crisp quality.

To entertain myself – after all I was a single woman at a bar — I read through the list of 30 beers created by the brew master. In addition to raspberries, various hops and bourbon-barrel aging, herbs were part of the formula. These included …

  • Pretty Ricky, a blonde ale made with hibiscus flowers.
  • Tongue Thai’d, an IPA made with lemon grass, lemon verbena and ginger.
  • Oro Negro, an imperial stout made with vanilla beans, cacao nibs, cinnamon and Habanero peppers then conditions for months on oak staves.
  • Gose, a mixed culture beer brewed with salt and coriander.

Relaxed and re-energized, I headed back to the dorm with samples of New Growth Summer Spruce Tip IPA to share with those back home.

Top Herb Publication – The Herbarist 2016 – Coming Soon

Top Herb Publication – The Herbarist 2016 – Coming Soon

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

apple-cider-vinegar-ginger-and-honey-switchelWhen I was a preteen setting the dinner table, in the 1970s, I always placed sliced bread and pickles on the table. Both, of course, were homemade. The pickles could be cucumbers, beets or mixed vegetables. But, a meal wasn’t complete without pickles.

Times, and dinner, changed as life approached the speed of sound. And, at some point, the bread – too many carbs – and pickles disappeared from the ritual. Too bad. Modern science is proving that vinegar has health benefits (that may even include aiding weight loss).

Time to get back to pickles. Or, better yet, explore “shrubs:” … not the plant, but a historic beverage spiked with fruit-infused vinegar.

Get an introduction to this 17th century concoction in the 2016 issue of The Herbarist. The magazine ships in mid-November to members of The Herb Society of America. Non-members can obtain a copy by joining the Society or ordering for $16.50. To inquire about a copy call 440.256.0514 or email herbs@herbsociety.org.

In the magazine, authors Susan Belsinger and Tina Marie Wilcox note:

“A shrub is basically a fruited vinegar— a syrup made from fruit, vinegar and sweetener. Shrubs can be just that simple, or they can contain alcohol. This age-old beverage, both tangy and sour, is believed to be of Turkish origin. Its first recorded use was in the 1600s. Travelers and trade ships carried the drink across land and ocean, keeping scurvy away from sailors at sea.”

Beyond the shrub article, the magazine includes 11 articles covering everything from art to gardening. Lush photography and design are a feast for the eyes.


herbartist-cover-webThe Herbarist
will be easily identifed by the frame-worthy cover. To produce it HSA editor Brent DeWitt created original art with colored pencil and watercolors, then finished composing with Photoshop. “I created this art in the style of Alphonse Mucha, a well-known Czech artist from the turn of the century,” he explains.

Overall Brent says, “I like that is a new design, plant-focused and has a lot to do with gardening and the utility of plants,” says Brent.

Executive Director Katrinka Morgan adds, “The Herbarist is always the top-rated membership benefit. It’s what everybody waits for. This year’s images are outstanding and support the content well. It’s a great package.”

The publication is the result of many authors as well as members of The Herbarist committee.  Brent coordinated the magazine’s text and artistic design. The issue’s graphic design was by Impel Creative of Lakewood, Ohio and SP Mount Printing in Cleveland, Ohio was again the printer. Here’s a little peek at the printing process…

 


It’s time to submit article idea for review for the 2017 issue of The Herbarist.  Production of the 2017 edition will begin in mid-2017.

 

Herbal Tea Harvest Time

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

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I’ve been thinking about Christmas since March, brainstorming what I’m going to make for family and friends. Last year I gifted baskets of homemade jams and chutneys. A handful of folks received mint syrup for their ice cream and drinks …the result of a failed mint jelly attempt.

Among other things, this year’s package may be beverage themed. It will probably include herbal cordials. And, now I’m thinking mint tea blends. For those blends, I’ve been cutting mint every few days as it’s so prolific in its sunny corner by the barn. If only the catnip and lemon balm would catch up. I haven’t yet identified my blends, but I’m collecting other herb materials like fragrant rose petals, pineapple sage, lemon verbena and more.

Chamomile maybe be prolific and boast sleepy-time properties, but I avoid it because it gives me hay fever. Then, my sleep is inspired by the Benadryl that I take to counteract it.

While loose tea is lovely in a metal tin, I’ll source paper tea bags to make brewing easier for my friends. I know they’re more likely to use bags. And, that gives a new presentation opportunity.teabag

I will design tags for the string end, something happy and fun. After all, packaging is a key part of experience. And, I’m watching garage sales and thrift stores for tins and canisters to hold those tea bags. (I may use half-pint canning jars or whatever I find in the dollar section at Target.)

As for blends, it’s hard for me to follow recipes. Those are mere guidelines for mortals. LOL.  I have to tweak things my way. And, tea blends depend on the resources. If I have more mint, I use more mint. More lemon herbs, I spike my teas with them.

I insist that my teas must be homegrown and organic. The rest will be spontaneous magic.


What do you mix to make herbal tea?

Lavender Inspires Second Career for Wisconsin Retirees

mediakit02By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

When Martine and Edgar Anderson retired five years ago, they moved to remote Washington Island in Door County, Wisconsin and started their second careers as lavender farmers.  On the north edge of the “lavender belt,” Washington Island is in growing zone 5B.

Martine was following a childhood inspiration; she grew up in the South of France where lavender farms were a part of life. The versatile, aromatic herb romanced her and never left.

The couple started strategically. Martine had been growing a few lavender plants that were doing very well in the growing zone. “Before we got to the scale of the business, we planted several varieties and realized that they could survive,” says Edgar. “But, before we started the farm, we did a lot of research with the University of Washington, talked to growers, talked to researchers and compared notes on soil samples, climate data.”

mediakit06“The soils here are sandy,” he notes. “Good drainage is a must-have for lavender because they don’t want wet feet. Lavender is prone to fungal disease.”

The growing parameters on the Wisconsin island measured up. So Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm, Shop and Bistro is a 21-acre farm with 14,000 plants – 10 varieties — growing on five acres of land. Plans call to more than double cultivation in the next five years.

“We’ve been here four years and the plants are growing very well,” Edgar notes.

mediakit07With supply, they needed demand. And, that hasn’t been a problem either.  “The lavender industry in North America is small, compared to Europe and New Zealand. It took a big jump in the United States starting in the 1990s,” he says.  And, he sees a need for U.S. growers to meet mounting demand.

The top lavender producing country is Bulgaria with 150 tons in 2015, according to Ukraine Today and other sources. That’s followed by France, New Zealand, Ukraine, Russia, Australia and the Mediterranean region.

Martine laments that U.S. lavender oil and lavender-scented products often come from China, where quality control is lax and purity may be questionable. “That’s not what you want to buy. We use pure oils, undiluted oils,” she says.

Though all lavenders are edible, Fragrant Isle grows different varieties for aromatic and culinary uses. Martine notes the strong aromatics (some camphor-like scents) are off putting for culinary uses.

Both variety and harvest differ for the two. “For aromatic uses like oil, you want to let them grow longer, so the buds swell and the compounds mature enough so you can extract quality oils,” she says “The weather plays a big role in when to harvest. If it gets hot early in summer, it happens sooner.”

“If you’re harvesting lavender buds, you have to watch when the flowers are only 30 percent open.”

mediakit08-2In addition to the farm, Fragrant Isle has a café that serves lunch and has dinner hours on weekends. The 2,000-square-foot shop sells more than 150 products including body lotions, soap, body wash, linen spray, insect repellent, after shave and more. All use lavender from the farm.

“We are constantly looking for commercial ways to use lavender,” says Martine.

Diners at Le Petit Bistro experience culinary use they may want to repeat at home. “We use it in teas, in baking. We use it on fish, tenderloin, beef. We do sugar infused with lavender. We make jam,” says Martine. A recent menu item was Lemon Glazed Cake with Lavender Rhubarb Puree and Whipped Cream.


While Martine and Edgar are quick to share their knowledge, they’re making it more fun with a Lavender Festival on July 22, 23 and 24, 2016. Timed for the flowering season, they’ll offer lessons in lavender chocolate-making and lavender wand-making. Music is scheduled throughout the festival and visitors double their stress relief with massages in the field. More than 5,000 guests are expected to visit the three-day event. For details on getting to the island and more, check out their website.

Chilies: Chefs Like it Hot

By Joanna DeChellis, Restaurant Hospitality Magazine

 Chilies are hot. They were January 2016 Herb of the Month for the Herb Society of America and are 2016 Herb of the Year for the International Herb Association. Chefs around the country concur. Learn more about the trend in this excerpt posted Feb 4, 2016, by Restaurant Hospitality magazine. 


hotOnce reserved for thrill-seekers and chili-heads, fiery foods have officially gone mainstream. According to market research firm Datassential, chefs are hardwired to look for new and interesting ingredients to elevate their cuisine. “Chilies offer the perfect playground. There are many varieties with vastly different flavor profiles from all corners of the globe,” says Datassential’s Colleen McClellan.

Very specific ethnic peppers are being used in non-traditional ways, like as a garnish or an accent point, she says. “Peppers like the Calabrian chili, ghost pepper, and shishito peppers are seeing triple-digit growth over a four-year period. The habanero pepper has seen 90 percent growth in only the past year.”

In addition to peppers, chefs are also turning to hot sauces to spice up menus. Gochujang, for example, has experienced triple-digit growth since last year.

For a fiery dish to work, though, it must be balanced. Heat for the sake of heat is rarely a recipe for success. So, as chefs look at temperature-pushing possibilities, many are drawing inspiration from personal experiences.


Ashok Bajaj, restaurateur

Restaurant: The Bombay Club, Washington DC (Knightsbridge Restaurant Group)

Favorite Fiery Ingredient: Green Chili

Favorite Fiery Dishes: Chicken Tikka Hariyali; Lamb Vindaloo

Born in New Delhi, India, Ashok Bajaj, who has owned and operated award-winning restaurants in London and the United States for more than 25 years, doesn’t actually like very spicy foods. For him, it’s all about balance.

“Heat is subjective,” says Bajaj. “The way I experience spice is completely different from how you experience spice. I don’t like dishes that burn your palate the moment you eat them.

“Growing up, my mother liked spicy foods, but my father did not. I learned from her how to use chilies to enhance flavor. They add complexity and give a glow that can’t be replicated. As I began to experience other types of cuisine, I was able to see how other cultures use chilies and find ways to fuse the different styles to add flavor without fire.

“When we develop dishes at The Bombay Club and other restaurants through our group, we adjust the heat based on our guests’ preferences. If they want it hot, we’ll make it hot. If they don’t, we won’t.”

 

Edward Lee, culinary director

Restaurant: Succotash, National Harbor, MD

Favorite Fiery Ingredient: Gochujang

Favorite Fiery Dish: Dirty Fried Chicken with Spicy Gochujang Honey Glaze, Blue Cheese, and Pickles

Edward Lee focuses on spice when developing dishes more than any other taste profile at Succotash, which features a progressive perspective of classic Southern favorites.

“Almost any dish can be enhanced by spice,” says Lee. “You just have to be careful to add the right amount. My goal is never to melt someone’s lips off.  It’s to add complexity and enjoyment to a dish.

“One of my favorites is our Dirty Fried Chicken, which is inspired by buffalo chicken wings. The contrast of crunchy fried skin and a thick hot sauce always pleased me when I ate wings. But I always want the hot sauce to have more depth. So we take our house recipe fried chicken and dip it into our dirty gochujang sauce right before serving.

“The sauce starts with gochujang and butter, but we add a ton of other ingredients like soy sauce, ginger, yellow mustard and pickle juice. It’s isn’t just spice for the sake of heat. It’s nuanced and layered. It has a sweetness to it and umami—lots of umami.

“I ate spicy food all the time growing up but always in Korean dishes that were balanced with other flavors like acids and fermented fish. I’ve had a lifelong appreciation for spice not as a main ingredient but as part of a backbone to complement other flavors.

Read about the favorites of top chefs.


Posted with the permission of Restaurant Hospitality magazine