Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia (formerly Lavandula officinalis) is by far one of my favourite flowering plants. This aromatic shrub is native to the western Mediterranean, primarily the Pyrenees and other mountains in northern Spain. It is grown widely in Europe and across northern and eastern Africa, and from southwest Asia to southeast India.
Lavender has culinary and medicinal uses, and is often commercially grown to produce its essential oil, which has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. The word Lavender is derived from Latin lavare, which means to wash – and has a long history of being added to bath water to calm emotions and relax the body.
You can also drink this sweet smelling herb by adding some of its flowers, picked straight from the garden, to 1 cup boiling water to ward off a headache and unwind before bedtime… it makes a deliciously relaxing tea.
Leaves and flowers, which have a slightly bitter flavour, can be used to flavour vinegars, jams, relishes, cakes, biscuits and cheese. It’s probably worth trying Lavender honey sometime, the flowers yield abundant nectar from which bees make high-quality delectable honey.