the forgotten garden flavor

When you see a lavender plant in flower, what comes to mind?

Maybe you think of bees. Or the familiar fragrance. That it grows easily without tons of water. That it’s just plain pretty.

If you know its medicine, you may be reminded that it helps heal skin and calm the mind.

But how often do you think of lavender as a flavor?

Until recently, lavender was a largely forgotten flavor in most of the United States. Its culinary renaissance has been inhibited by its association with soap — some folks just can’t untangle the tastes. But lavender’s profile is rising again, and you can find it in items ranging from tea to ice cream.

For all its aromatic floral notes, lavender also has bitter compounds. Many folks like bitters just fine in coffee, but often get turned off when they get the hit in other places. If you associate lavender with soap and essential oils, you just don’t expect that bitter bite.

But both bitters and aromatics play important roles in boosting digestion. Aromatics gently stimulate the lining of the digestive tract, encouraging secretions that help break down food.

Bitters work by reflex: Just a small taste trips a nerve that tells the brain to tell the gut to get ready for food. It’s magically fast.

And lavender not only trips the nerve that starts digestion, it’s also generally calming to the nervous system. Think about those times you’ve been too anxious to eat; a little bit of lavender would be a great help there.

I recently taught a hands-on medicine making class to a group of women, organized around their huge harvest of home-grown lavender. One of the preparations we made was the classic Herbes de Provence.

Traditionally, people created these herbal blends from what was available and abundant in the moment. They’d just walk out to the garden or the hills and gather a handful of this, a couple sprigs of that, and call it good.

Recipes got handed down, but they vary widely — as I discovered while trying to find a single, definitive version to make with my students.

This points to a central truth about culinary herbal blending: Because there’s no one right way to do it, you are free to go with what you’ve got and add flavors until you like it. The best herbal blends are those you make and consume.

In the end, I brought my students the following four different recipes to make that point. To prepare these, just toss the dried herbs together and store in a cool, dark place.

Have fun playing with the flowers, and bring that joy to the foods you prepare with them.


— Dr. Orna


From Martha Stewart:

  • 3 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons dried savory
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 3 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers (optional)



  • 4 tablespoons thyme
  • 3 tablespoons marjoram
  • 3 tablespoons summer savory
  • 2 tablespoons rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mint
  • 1 teaspoon chervil
  • 1 teaspoon lavender



  • 3 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons dried savory
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers (optional)



  • 3 tablespoons oregano leaves
  • 3 tablespoons thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon savory
  • 2 tablespoons lavender flowers
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary