Lavender Blue

21/07/2012 14:55


A rhapsody in blue, lavender soothes both the eye and the soul.
Lovely lavender is the scent of summer. Crush and roll a few flower buds between your fingers, then inhale their wonderful scent slowly, its a sure way to calm those frazzled nerves.

Lavender has over 2500 years of recorded use and has long been used throughout the ages in herbal medicine to soothe, relax and uplift. In ancient times lavender was used by the ancient Egypt for embalming and cosmetics.

Romans used lavender oils for bathing, cooking, and scenting the air. The Romans called it lavender which may have come from the Latin verb 'lavare' which means 'to wash'.

In Medieval and Renaissance Europe, the washer women were known as 'lavenders' as they used lavender to scent drawers and they dried the laundry on lavender bushes.

Queen Elizabeth I of England required lavender conserve at her royal table. She also drank lavender tea to treat her frequent migraines.

During the Great Plague of London in the 17th century, individuals fastened bunches of lavender to each wrist to protect themselves from the Black Death, and glovemakers scented their stocks of leather with lavender oil to ward off the disease.

Queen Victoria loved lavender so much she had it used to wash the floors and furniture. Lavender was very fashionable among all the ladies at the time, and they bought it from street sellers.

There are many different kinds of lavender. The most widely grown is the English Lavender. There are more than a hundred varieties ranging in height and colour. Winter rain and cold are enemies of all mediterranean shrubs and lavender is no exception. Give it a well-drained position and plenty of sunshine. Some lavenders are more tolerant, whilst others are quite tender and require winter protection. Lavender brings bees and butterflies into the garden as well as other beneficial insects, making it a gardener's friend. A few lavender plants amongst the roses not only make a wonderful companions, they can also help prevent greenfly.

Lavender is really a herb so not surprising that the flowers are edible as well as the leaves. For cooking, the most commonly used variety is 'Sweet' Lavender- Lavandula angustifolia. 'Hidcote' Lavender will give you the best colour for any infusions - syrups, jelly or vinegars. It's most important that the lavender be pesticide free, so it is best to purchase lavender that is specifically marketed for cooking. The other alternative is to grow your own lavender, knowing that you have kept it away from any pesticides or other toxic substances.

This multipurpose flower can be used in jams, jellies, ice cream, biscuits and vinegars. The flowers can also be crystallized, added to salads or used to make a tea. Lavender pairs beautifully with citrus. Cooking with lavender can add a unique flavour to a variety of dishes. Just keep in mind that, when it comes to food a little lavender goes along way!

Make some Lavender Sugar ~ Use about 2 tablespoons of culinary lavender buds for a quart jar of sugar and let it sit for a month before the first use. Replace the amount you take out with the same amount in new sugar and you have a bottomless jar of lavender sugar for years to come. Use this where you would use regular sugar to add an aromatic flavour. Try making some shortbread or fairy cakes with the scented sugar. Delicious!

Harvest lavender for drying when the first bud on the flower stalk is just starting to open. Bind the stems with a rubber band, string or ribbon and hang upside down in a warm, dry, dark spot. When dry pack away in airtight boxes to keep fresh.

A few uses for lavender...

Lavender bath ~ Oatmeal baths are good for the skin, as oatmeal softens water. Add lavender, and you have a bath that not only smells delightful but also softens and soothes. Combine two tablespoons of each lavender flowers and ground oatmeal and place in the centre of a square of cotton or muslin. Gather up the corners and tie tightly with a long piece of string or ribbon. Attach the bag to the bathtub taps so it hangs below the water level, for a soothing, moisturising soak. Bliss!

Lavender sachets are really easy to make and the scent can last for years with a quick squeeze of the sachet or refresh with a few drops of lavender essential oil. The basic instruction is take some cloth and place some lavender buds on the cloth. Gather the cloth to enclose the lavender. You can use a rubber band or sew closed the cloth so the lavender won't fall out. Then just add a pretty ribbon to decorate it. Throw lavender sachets into your dryer to make your clothes smell wonderful and fresh. This will freshen up to 25 dryer loads!

For a simple lavender sachet ~ gather dried lavender branches or dried flowers together and place in a small ladies handkerchief. Tie into a bundle with lavender-coloured ribbon. These make lovely gifts, or they can be simply tucked
into ones lingerie drawers or linen cupboards. Beautiful!

Insect repellent ~ hang bunches and lavender near doors and windows to deter those little bugs. Also scatter some lavender under your doormat too.

Lavender tea ~ Put one heaped tablespoon of fresh or dried flowers in a teapot and cover with boiling water. Infuse for around ten minutes, before straining
into cups. Wonderful for calming nerves, settles the stomach and induces sleep.

There is a very old English nursery rhyme dating to the seventeenth century called 'Lavender's Blue' or 'Lavender Blue' and it goes like this....

Lavender's blue, dilly dilly, lavender's green,
When you are King, dilly dilly, I shall be Queen.
Who told you so, dilly dilly, who told you so?
'Twas my own heart, dilly dilly, that told me so.

Call up your friends, dilly, dilly set them to work,
Some to the plough, dilly dilly, some to the fork.
Some to the hay, dilly dilly, some to thresh corn,
Whilst you and I, dilly dilly, keep ourselves warm.

Lavender's blue, dilly dilly, lavender's green
When you are King, dilly dilly, I shall be Queen
Who told you so, dilly dilly, who told you so?

'Twas my own heart, dilly dilly, that told me so.

D Moss.