For many who are just getting into the lavender scene, it can be confusing to distinguish between the culinary varieties and those used for essential oils and aromatic purposes. Telling the difference does not have to be difficult, however; here are a few basic distinctions to get you started:
• Lavender is actually a member of the mint family, and culinary varieties will have a unique and distinct flavor, just like mint. Culinary lavender will, however, often have a softer scent than a variety used for the distilling of essential oils.
• Lavender that will be used for essential oil is often highly fragrant – this allows the purity of the scent to be preserved throughout the distillation process.
• English Lavender is the variety most commonly used for cooking. It is used in dried form, and it is important to note that dried lavender is highly potent.
• A huge difference between culinary and aromatic lavender is amount of oil present in the plant. Culinary lavender will have less oil, while its counterparts will have more.
No matter how you look at it, it all boils down to the oil present and the sharpness of flavor and scent. Many lavender varieties, although they may smell wonderful, can taste bitter, overly strong, or even sour – needless to say, these varieties are definitely not meant to be added to food. A plant that yields a sweet, mildly-scented lavender bud is more in line with cooking.
As previously stated, lavender belongs to the powerful mint family; as such lavender can overpower foods if not used with caution and a gentle hand. Lavender-infused sugars, syrups, and butters are an excellent way to add the taste of lavender to your table without running the risk of having it steal the show.