How I Find Culinary Lavender Varieties

So…Culinary Lavender…now that is a topic I can bite into.  Pun intended.

I was just chomping down various flower heads a few days ago to decide on more culinary or hydrosol varieties. Jean Davis/Rosea is supposed to be the sweetest Augustafolia there is but a little temperamental.  I waited two years to get some flowers to test.  They flowered first time this year. So of course I had to chomp on a few flower heads. 

Gotta say Jean Davis wasn’t what I expected. Leaves are very fragrant and sweet smelling but fresh flower packs a punch with strong taste. Unsure how I would feel once it was dried.

I adore Ms. Katherine for sweet culinary.  Royal Velvet is a nice enough one. Not strong and not sweet but just right.  Fresh it was insipid with almost zero taste. Good thing it has more taste when dried with the oils concentrated. It is a great all around lavender for sweet or savory being a mild flavour. Katherine is a white gray color and Royal Velvet is dark purple.

Do you want my favorite two Culinary Lavenders? I have a set with both Royal Velvet and Ms. Katherine available in the SHOP HERE. Get your own set of two wonderful lavenders and start your own cooking journey.

To get started cooking with Lavender, here are a couple of my favorite recipes using Lavender.

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Melissa seems too strong to me for most things but it has been growing on me for savory dishes.  Buena Vista is sweet and nicely balanced.  Folgate is insipid with nearly zero taste when dried but surprisingly sweet when fresh.  Martha’s White Folgate seems maybe even sweeter but I haven’t dried it yet only chomped on fresh flowers. 

Hidcote Lavender

I absolutely hands down adore Pink Hidcote for one of my most favorite hydrosols and oils.  Since I know no one here in MI that seems to grow it, I haven’t had the chance to taste it or smell it dried in buds. My distillation terrace just finished going in last week, and all my baby Pink Hidcote are trying to flower.  I am trying to psych myself up to cut the flowers off…haven’t managed it yet, but wanted to taste test it first.  Whew…do not think Hidcote Pink will be one of my culinary. Wow was it strong. Like make my eyes nearly water strong. Probably why it makes such a strong and unique hydrosol. Might try it again later.

Everyone goes on about how wonderful Melissa Lilac is for culinary.  It is a beautiful unique looking flower but as culinary or even a hydrosol….I hands down do NOT like that one at all. Nearly could say I hate this one.

I have tested Vera as a hydrosol and like it.  Culinary not so much.

I have tested both Munstead and Hidcote regular in fresh bud and prefer Hidcote but don’t hate Munstead.

A big surprise, for taste and in a hydrosol was Big Time Blue. Super sweet and prolific flowers.  Since it is patented and I didn’t know anything about that when I bought it, it is disappointing because I can’t make more.  So the 2 or 3 I have in my regular yard are it. It is not in my lavender field. But last year it was about my only Augustafolia big enough to flower other than a few Hidcote, Munstead and Royal Velvet in gallon pots.  So I distilled every Augustfolia flower I could find in one fresh small batch of all varieties and I have only a few ounces left and it will be gone. Time to distill more.

Do you bite the flower heads off of every single Augustafolia that you meet to taste it or is that just me?  How else do you decide if it is a good culinary one?

My picks for culinary lavender so far are:

Ms Katherine is sweet. Melissa is savory. Royal Velvet is for anything but when you want color. And Buena Vista is sweet and dark purple color.

Verdict is still out on these:

Folgate is insipid when dried but color is nice. Martha’s White Folgate have only had fresh but was intensely sweet. Vera only had fresh and not excited. Jean Davis/Rosea only have had fresh and barely formed buds so need to try again.

Waiting to try flowers properly still on these varieties:

Avice Hill are baby plants so no flowers yet. Pink Hidcote (2nd try) are baby plants. Loddon Blue seems pretty strong and not very sweet.

Melissa Lilac

Photo is Melissa Lilac which is NOT a choice for me for culinary or hydrosol. But I thought I would distill it at least one time to be sure. I decided it wasn’t too bad as a hydrosol, but it is not my favorite for culinary. I do guess that means I no longer hate it.

Out chopping off all the flowers of about 500+ baby plants and I decided to eat a Melissa flower that was open vs still in bud.  It was really sweet. Strong but sweet.  Rather different fresh than when it has been dried. So maybe that is why folks like that one?  I like Melissa in a homemade cheese sauce over tortellini. Here are a couple of recipes to try cooking with Lavender to get you started.

Sweet Lavender Moon Milk.

Lavender Garlic Herb Chicken with Four Cheese Ravioli.

Melissa however is one of my favorites for oil and hydrosol though and if I decide that I like it for hydrosol, I may have decided which cultivar the other half of my terraces will be.

What are your thoughts?

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