01 August 2008

Lavender and Other Edible Flowers


Local Lavender

There was an abundance of lavender at the Camas Farmer’s Market last Saturday. That was a good thing since lavender was exactly what I was looking for. I saw a recipe at Big Black Dog for Lavender Chicken a couple of weeks ago and I have been eager to try it ever since.

But lavender that is suitable for cooking can be hard to come by. While lavender is edible it is not commonly used in cooking and is more often grown for other uses. Sometimes dyes and preservatives which are not intended for human consumption are added to make the blossoms more attractive for crafts or potpourris. For this reason you want to make sure the lavender you use in cooking has not been sprayed with harmful pesticides or treated with other chemicals that are not suitable for food crops.

Nancy, from Lacamas Lavender Farm, assured me that no pesticides are used on their flowers. Not even fertilizers are used after the flowers begin blooming, and nothing is added to enhance color or fragrance. Their lavender is fresh from their farm, naturally fragrant and pretty and safe to use, offered for sale locally at the Camas Farmer's Market.

As I looked for information on what to look for when searching for culinary lavender I found some great history, tips, and recipes for this fragrant herb at What's Cooking America. There I found tips on which variety of lavender is best to cook with and suggestions for using lavender in bread recipes, for making lavender sugar and much more.

Another great source of information was the website for Purple Haze Lavender Farm in Sequim, Washington. This site offers recipes and information about lavender as well as featuring a store where culinary lavender and lavender products can be ordered. It even offers information on farm tours and vacation rentals if you are interested in learning even more about lavender or simply enjoying a great vacation in scenic Washington.


Edible Flowers

Lavender wasn’t the only edible flower I found at the farmers market. Friendly Haven Rise Farm, a local organic farm offering classes and stayovers, was also at the Camas Farmers Market offering edible flowers. Their salad mix contained herb and wild flowers mixed with rose petals along with sprigs of fresh herbs. Mixed with a bag of locally grown lettuce, also for sale at the farmer's market, I thought these flowers would make a lovely salad to go with the Lavender Chicken I had planned for dinner.

At home, I mixed the marinade for the Lavender Chicken, using lavender blossoms, fragrant basil leaves, fresh lemons, pungent garlic and lots of extra virgin olive oil. A sprinkling of other fresh herbs from my garden were thrown in as well.

While the chicken marinated I prepared a salad from mixed greens and added some lavender blossoms and the edible flowers from the market as well as a few nasturtium, mustard and rose petals from flowers growing in my own garden. Many flowers are edible and have very interesting flavors. Nasturtium petals have a peppery flavor and rose petals are fragrant. Still some flowers are poisonous so always check with a reliable source before using them in your cooking.



Dinner

After assembling this pretty mixture of petals and greens I tossed it with the remains of a bottle of Newman’s Own Family Recipe Italian Dressing. I know, I know. I could make my own dressing, and lots of different viniagrette's would be easy to make and would taste great with this salad, but I like Newman's Own dressing and I was cleaning out my refrigerator and that is what I used.

After my husband grilled the Lavender Chicken I sliced it and served it over the simple salad I had prepared. I also added a colorful portion of Corn Salad with Pecan Dressing to the plate to complete a pretty and delicious summer dinner.


Note: On this occasion I made my salad using chicken hot off the grill. This presentation would also be good with cold chicken, perhaps leftover from a barbeque the day before, or leftover chicken sliced and gently warmed in a skillet before serving.

This recipe for Lavender Chicken is really delicious. The meat turns out tender, moist and delicately flavored. It is a great recipe for a casual weekend dinner but would also be wonderful for a picnic or a summer potluck. Everyone at my table had good things to say about it and eagerly ate the leftovers the next day.

Alanna at A Veggie Venture has come up with some pretty icons to signify information and recipes related to locally grown produce and farmers markets. I will be using this icon when I discover something fun or delicious at our local farmers markets.

Though the fledgling Camas Farmers Market is small I had a blast there, talking to the friendly vendors, checking out the beautiful herbs and flowers and thinking of ways to use the local produce. The weekly Camas market, operating on Saturdays from 9am - 1 pm through Oct. 4, 2008, offers some small town atmosphere, a number of interesting local products and some nice produce to supplement the week’s menu.

4 comments:

Alanna said...

How beautiful!

Michelle said...

OH I so happy you like my Lavender Chicken...it is good and so easy too.

Your presentation is just wonderful!

Grace said...

what gorgeous pictures! lavender chicken, eh? i'm pretty unfamiliar with the whole edible flower phenomenon, but that sounds pretty darn good to me. :)

Trying Traditional said...

I raise my own lavender so that I know it's safe for consuming. There is nothing better than a glass of lavender lemonade on a hot summer day!

My oldest created a great honey with lavender and vanilla. She put a handful (her size) or blossoms into a cup of honey with a vanilla bean halved and scored. We let it set for awhile and use it to drizzle on fruit or to sweeten fresh whipped cream. The whipped cream made a wonderful "icing" for our twins' birthday cake.