These wonderful little blue and violet flowers give off an unforgettable scent in summer! Whether wild or cultivated, lavender carpets vast expanses on the sunny fields of Provence. It's a plant that is so well-known that it has given its name to a color.
Celebrated since ancient times, lavender was considered by the Greeks to be a "nard," or perfume herb. It also was used to cleanse and perfume the thermal baths adored by the Romans, but given to being malodorous. The term lavender, from the Latin lavare, to wash, appeared in the Middle Ages. Sought after by physicians, its use was associated with the fight against disease since it was long believed that bad odors led to illness. It was one of the essentials of monastery gardens.
During the French Revolution, the monks, chased out of the monasteries, took refuge in England, bringing with them some lavender cuttings. Thus the origins of English lavender, so dear to the British.
Its use in perfume making began in earnest in the 19th century.
It plays a supporting role in cooking – whether it is traditional or an innovation of cutting-edge chefs is open to debate. One thing is certain: in the kitchen, lavender is part of a subtle balance and has to be handled with a light touch.
There are about 35 varieties of lavender, but not all of them are edible. True lavender, angustifolia, is the edible variety. It has a single large straight stalk, with no little outgrowths of additional flowers.
"True" lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
True lavender flowers in July at heights of 600 to 1500 m between the mountain and sky in the Vaucluse, the lower Alps, the Luberon and Upper Provence. It is characterized by its smaller tufts, with each stem bearing only one spikelet.
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