One of my faults/strengths is that I’m a jack of all trades. This wouldn’t be a bad thing except the second part of that phrase which haunts me. And so, when I decided to write a blog, I couldn’t choose what exactly I wanted to blog about. Parenting? Writing? Gardening? They are all a big part of my life and I’m very interested in all of them. So I decided to just blog about my life—which would contain all three– hence the name.
Yesterday, as I was gardening and determined to spend the weekend gardening, I thought about several articles I’d written for a website that never came into being and so I decided to publish one. The MC in my series is a healer and as research, I poured over the different uses for herbs and found the information valuable.
So, below you will find the modified article. When I wrote it, I must have been going for professional because it sure was… stiff. : ) I’d change it more but I want to get to my favorite store: Home Depot.
With its distinctive purple flower spikes and unmistakable fragrance, lavender is probably one of the most recognizable herbs. It’s also one of the most versatile and its use dates back thousands of years.
The word ‘Lavender’ comes from Latin and means Lavare or to wash and it does have antiseptic properties. In fact, during WW2, lavender was used not only to dress wounds but to disinfect floors. (And you thought putting in our cleaners was a new decision)
Most of us are familiar with lavender as potpourri but the leaves are also an insect repellent and I read not too long ago, about a woman who used tied bunches of lavender to stop algae from growing in her bird bath. I tried this in my pond with less success.
Healers and herbalists have used lavender as an antispasmodic, a diuretic, a sleep tonic and as a remedy against headaches. I can attest to its effectiveness in two ways: I‘ve always been a bit of an insomniac and keep a vial of lavender spray by my bed to help me relax. Lavender oil is also the prime ingredient in a lotion I rub on my temples when I have a headache. It seems almost miraculous to me how fast it works.
Lavender is also a culinary herb, which shouldn’t be surprising since it’s a member of the mint family. Lavender flowers add beautiful color to salads, it can substitute for rosemary in some recipes and you can add it to sugar for use in cakes, buns or custards. The spikes look beautiful in a glass of champagne or as a garnish for sorbets or ice cream. It also lends itself to stew dishes or sauces. Really the uses are only limited by the chef’s imagination.
Two cautions: dried lavender is more potent than fresh and never use lavender from florists or nurseries as it could have been treated with pesticides.
There are several types of lavender: Spanish, French or English and less common ones such as Fern-leaf lavender. English lavender has the sweetest fragrance and is most commonly used in cooking. French or Spanish lavender is better for crafts and dried arrangements. If you grow lavender, and I recommend you do, make sure it has sandy well drained soil. If you have clay soil, add a considerable amount of sand; a raised bed helps too. If the lavender gets too much water, it will die. In my first real garden, I had a bed of lavender and mint… it was a joy to weed. And though I confined the mint to a container, one of the first plants that I bought when we moved into our new house was lavender. I grouped it with Black Eyed Susan, Daisy and Echinacea and it’s still a joy to weed. Every time I walk past the plant, I run my hands over the flowers.
Whether you use lavender in your linen closet, as a tonic or in your stew, it’s a valuable, versatile herb no herbalist or gardener should be without.
Below is my lavender plant from last march. Unfortunately, the dynamic of my perennial bed changed last fall and this plant received way to much water and died. Yes, I’m sad. But I will buy another…today.