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Lavender


Anna Blume
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Has anyone seen fresh lavender for sale at farmers markets or elsewhere in D.C. (or environs that are Metro accessible)?

Second, is its flavor very similar to mint when added to simple desserts when the only other featured flavor is fruit? E.g. apricot w butter & sugar.

N.B. The reason I ask the second question is that I am not a big fan of strong floral tastes; I detest violet candies.

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Has anyone seen fresh lavender for sale at farmers markets or elsewhere in D.C. (or environs that are Metro accessible)?

Second, is its flavor very similar to mint when added to simple desserts when the only other featured flavor is fruit? E.g. apricot w butter & sugar.

N.B. The reason I ask the second question is that I am not a big fan of strong floral tastes; I detest violet candies.

I wouldn't say "very" similar. Or that similar at all. A delicate hand is called for -- I recall a batch of ice cream I made that was more reminiscent of a bar of lavender soap than a proper dessert (a later, more subtly flavored batch was extraordinary, though).

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Earlier in the summer, several vendors at the Dupont market were selling fresh lavender, but I haven't seen any recently that I can remember. I am a big fan of lavender, but it needs to be used sparingly. If is being infused and then strained out, which I do when I make herbed brine for chicken and pork, I use a bit more. But when the flowers are going to be eaten, they can be overwhelming and somewhat bitter if there are too many of them. I once made the mistake of adding them generously to a batch of chevre, and then spent a long time picking most of them out of the cheese when I realized how unpleasant they were to eat in that concentration.

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I find the intensity of flavor depends on whether you use the leaves or the blossoms. Often I'll stuff a bunch of the leaves into the cavity of a chicken before roasting it, adding half a lemon and some garlic. I've even stuck the leaves under the skin of the chicken with some butter. The result is a delicate lavender aroma that melds well with the other flavors. Doing the same thing with the blossoms would probably be overwhelming. A similar technique is also excellent for roast lamb.

Then again, we love lavender. We still have a bottle of the oil we bought at a farm in Provence a few years ago that we use in an oil lamp as an air freshener.

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I made some lavender ice cream that was a bit of a disaster. The ice cream (well, custard) was fine-- vanilla bean. But I cut the sugar and made lavender simple syrup and used some of that in place of the sugar. It was insanely bad. Like a science project gone awry. I've had it before in ice cream, but I clearly need to find a recipe if anyone has suggestions.

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I made some lavender ice cream that was a bit of a disaster. The ice cream (well, custard) was fine-- vanilla bean. But I cut the sugar and made lavender simple syrup and used some of that in place of the sugar. It was insanely bad. Like a science project gone awry. I've had it before in ice cream, but I clearly need to find a recipe if anyone has suggestions.

Try steeping it in the milk/cream called for in the recipe and strain before using. You'll have to play around with times, though.

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