The best lavender to use for cooking is lavender from the species: Lavandula Angustifolia. Any cultivar within this species will taste best for cooking. Some cultivars in this species that are favorites for cooking include Royal Velvet, Folgate, and Melissa. However, when people ask what kind of lavender can you eat? Most people often assume all lavender is the same and all lavenders will taste about the same. You want to avoid most other lavender species due to their camphor content. This includes Lavandula Stoechas (often found at home depots and Costcos), Lavandula Latifolia, and Lavandula X Intermedia (AKA Lavandin). Other lavenders won’t hurt you but they will make your food taste soapy or perfumy.
So, What kind of lavender can you eat? There are hundreds of types of lavender under the genus lavandula. Therefore, it can be confusing to know what types of lavender are edible. Furthermore, what type of lavender tastes best? We are here to help you figure out which lavender is most edible and best for culinary purposes.
In the genus lavandula, there are 47 species. Each of those species contain many different cultivars. For example, the species Lavandula Angustifolia has close to 100 cultivars. Lavenders from some species can taste soapy or like camphor. While others, the ones we suggest, taste sweet and floral adding subtle character and depth to sweet and savory dishes alike.
The species of lavender that is most common for answering what kind of lavender can you eat? and for general culinary purpose is Lavandula Angustifolia AKA True Lavender AKA English Lavender. The great thing about English Lavender is every variety can be used for cooking. Some varieties are more sought after than others, but all of the around 100 varieties in the Lavandula Angustifolia species are considered edible lavenders. Our Angustifolia lavender buds can be used for culinary purposes and have a blend of Royal Velvet and Folgate cultivars of lavender. Both varieties are highly sought after in the culinary world, and this blend makes a great treat for all sorts of dishes. Our personal favorite lavender recipes are lavender lemonade and lavender jalapeno limeade. We also love lavender shortbread cookies. You can check out all of our culinary treats here like our Cooking with Lavender Book by Nancy Baggett.
Most lavender purchased commercially today comes from one of two species. The Lavandula Angustifolia species mentioned about or Lavandula X Intermedia. Lavandula X Intermedia is often referred to as lavandin or French lavender in the United States. In other countries, it may be referred to as something else. Lavandula X Intermedia is a hybrid lavender of Lavandula Angustifolia and Lavandula Latifolia. The species Lavandula Latifolia is a very camphorous lavender, in fact, many painters use its essential oils as a less toxic alternative to turpentine (google spike lavender oil for painting). Thus, the Lavandula X Intermedia also carries a camphorous scent although it is not as strong as the Latifolia lavender. Thus, varieties in the species Lavandula X Intermedia are not often considered edible lavender. However, there are a few varieties, like the cultivar Provence, that people use for culinary situations because it is fairly low in camphor. However, in general, Lavandula X Intermedia AKA Lavandin AKA French lavender is not typically used to cook with. So, when you ask what kind of lavender can you eat? Avoid, lavandin lavenders.
Most of the time it is quite easy to tell lavandin lavenders apart from true lavender. First, lavandins tend to be longer stemmed 18-24 inches in length. Moreover, true lavenders bloom, on average, about a month before lavandins. Lavandins also tend to have a strong camphor smell (Vick’s vapor rub has a strong camphor smell for reference). Also, lavandins tend to be more of a grayish purple, although there are exceptions to this. In contrast, Lavandula Angustifolia or true lavender is shorter stemmed (12-16″ typically), very sweet-smelling, and very deep purple sometimes almost blue. Lastly, there are white lavenders in both species which can make this a little confusing. However, most lavenders are a shade of purple
Lavandins are primarily used for dried lavender products like sachets, eye pillows, neck pillows, and anything you want to smell nice. Lavandins tend to produce more essential oil than true lavenders. Thus, lavandins are very strong smelling and useful in a variety of products. You will often find lavandins in lavender products and lavender in culinary and essential oils.
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