Home decor: All about lavender
"Lavender has been valued over the centuries for its power to relax, reduce stress, induce sleep, cure ailments, arouse the senses, repel insects and provide fragrance and beauty,” says Kate Seaver. The owner of Kate's Garden (www.katesgarden.ca) in Markham, Ont., Kate is something of a lavender expert -- she holds a lavender fair each summer and has put together a booklet called Lavender Lore , from which we've excerpted here for styleathome.com. Read more about lavender's history and create tasty recipes on page 2.
Adam and Eve are said to have brought lavender from the Garden of Eden.
This aromatic herb was found in the pyramids of the ancient Egyptians,where it was used to preserve bodies and repel insects. Egyptians draped their dead in lavender soaked shrouds.
The Romans used lavender as part of their bathing rituals.
It is widely believed that the Romans first brought the herb to England.
Lavender has been consistently popular since the Middle Ages. During the Middle Ages, it gained the reputation of warding off the plague.
During the great plague of the 17th century, lavender was fastened to each wrist to protect the wearer against the plague, as it became widely known that glove makers, who perfumed gloves with lavender, did not contract cholera.
In Medieval and Renaissance Europe, washing women were known as "lavenders" as they used lavender to wash clothes and scent drawers. They often dried laundry directly on lavender bushes.
Royal history is filled with stories of the use of lavender. Charles VI of France only slept on lavender filled pillows. Elizabeth I insisted on fresh lavender being available every day. Louis XIV bathed in Lavender water regularly. It was Queen Victoria who truly popularized this plant for both scent and medicinal purposes. English royalty may have given lavender its rank as a cosmetic herb, but it was during the Victorian era that lavender was recognized as a medicinal herb.
The first-aid kits of WWI medics contained lavender. Nurses bathed wounds of the soldiers with lavender washes. Even during WWII, lavender was part of a soldier's burn kit.
Lavender lemonade recipes
Fancy a cup of ice-cold lemonade, with a hint of lavender? Try one of Kate's lemonade recipes. For those not used to the flavour of lavender (or simply not sure it'll appeal to you) try using half the lavender quantities listed here:
Quick lavender lemonade
Steep ½ cup dried lavender in a quart of boiling water for about 15 minutes. Strain and use liquid to make up part of the water in a frozen lemonade or limeade mix.
5 cups water
1 ½ cups of sugar
12 stems of fresh lavender
2 ¼ cups of lemon juice
Boil 2 ½ cups of water with sugar. Add the lavender stems and remove from heat. Put a lid on the container and let cool. When cool, add 2 ½ cups water and the lemon juice. Strain out the lavender buds. Serve the lavender lemonade with crushed ice and garnish with lavender blossoms. Serves 8.
Pink lavender lemonade
5 cups water
2 cups sugar
½ cups fresh-hulled strawberries
¼ cups fresh lavender
2 ¼ cups lemon juice
In a medium saucepan, combine 2/12 cups water, sugar and strawberries. Bring to a boil and dissolve sugar. Reduce heat, simmer 5 minutes to extract the pink from the strawberries. Reduce heat. Stir in the lavender, cover and cool. Strain cooled liquid into a large pitcher, and strain the berries. Add remaining water and lemon juice. Stir well. Add sugar as required to sweeten. Just before serving, add ice cubes.
Lavender liquid hand soap
Real lavender hand soap costs a small fortune, but it's relatively easy to make at home. Save your empty hand soap pump dispensers for this purpose, particularly if they are glass. It also makes a lovely homemade gift.
10 tablespoons finely grated castile soap
8 tablespoons boiling water
2 tablespoons crushed lavender buds
4 drops of lavender oil
Melt the soap in the water in a bowl placed over a saucepan of hot water, stirring frequently, until smooth. Crush the flowers to a powder and take the bowl off the saucepan. Stir the flowers into a soap with oil. Cool and store in pretty bottles
Dipped in a cup of steaming hot tea, is there anything tastier than biscotti? Here's Kate's recipe for delish biscotti infused with lavender. As with the lemonade recipes, if you're not sure you'll like lavender's minty, thyme-like flavour, halve the amount of lavender in the recipe.
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped nuts
2 large eggs
½ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons dried lavender
¼ cup melted butter
1 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon rind
Juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons of milk
½ teaspoon of vanilla or lemon extract
Optional: Melted chocolate for dipping
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, butter, honey, lemon, lemon rind, mile and vanilla extract. Add to dry mixture and stir well. Drop this sticky dough onto a cookie sheet into 2” wide log shapes. Bake until golden and cool for 10 minutes. Slice diagonally and place back onto cookie sheets. Return to oven to cook 20 minutes longer, turning once. Serves 2 dozen.
Of course, the easiest lavender recipe of all is to place loose lavender buds in a bowl and enjoy the lovely, relaxing smell.
Lavender Lore is available at the lavender fair held by Kate's Garden each year. For more info and for tickets, visit katesgarden.ca.