Can you eat lavender?
One of the most common questions we hear from customers is, “Can you eat lavender?” or “Is lavender edible?” The answer is a resounding yes!
We’ve seen a dramatic increase over the last few years in customers buying culinary lavender, and have noticed lavender showing up in recipes, cocktail menus, and even specialty items like lavender chocolate. So we decided it was time to pique your curiosity and/or answer your most pressing questions about culinary lavender!
What does lavender taste like?
This question is difficult to answer because it’s hard to describe the taste of something so unique! Much like mint tastes…well… minty, lavender tastes lavender-y. Good culinary lavender will add a rich “under” tone to dishes – much like a spice – as well as sweet floral notes. It can take something simple and basic, like shortbread or vanilla ice cream, and turn it gourmet with just a pinch. If you like the smell of lavender, chances are you’ll love the taste.
What is culinary lavender? Is there a difference between "regular" lavender and culinary lavender?
The biggest question customers have once they understand they can eat it (aside from how to cook with lavender) is, “What makes lavender culinary? Is there a difference?” The most important thing to know is that all lavender is edible. It is helpful to remember that lavender is a perennial herb – we’re used to thinking of it as a flower, but it is actually in the same family as mint.
What does that mean for you? Any lavender you’ve got planted in your garden is theoretically edible!
What is the best type of lavender for culinary?
That being said, some kinds of lavender taste better than others. It is widely accepted that lavandula angustifolia is the best tasting lavender, because it doesn’t have a high camphor content (camphor is the bitter taste that makes some lavender taste like medicine or soap). Thus, any lavandula angustifolia variety should be good for cooking – but keep in mind taste isn’t the only consideration. While it may sound cool to purchase a pink or white lavender, these lavender buds dry grey and aren’t very visually appetizing in food. For cooking, we recommend lavandula angustifolia varieties that dry a deep, dark purple. All of the culinary lavender we sell is “Royal Velvet” for this reason. If someone is eating a lavender cookie, they want to see purple flecks in it. Just trust us on this.
The other common lavender species in the United States is lavandula x. intermedia, or “French” lavender. The herb mixture “Herbs de Provence” typically includes lavender buds or leaves, and often this mixture uses intermedia lavender rather than angustifolia – so it’s not unheard of to eat this species. If you really want to try cooking with your intermedia plant you’ve got in the yard, give it a shot – but remember lavandula intermedia does have noticeably more camphor in it than angustifolia (check out our angustifolia vs. intermedia blog), so be prepared for more bitterness, and compensate by adding less lavender than the recipe calls for.
What type of lavender isn't good for culinary?
So can I eat the lavender in my yard?
Assuming you can recognize what species you have, and you feel confident it’s an angustifolia (or you’re prepared for the more bitter taste of an intermedia), then yes! (See above for our recommendations against eating other lavender species.) Dried bud is the best for cooking with, though fresh lavender flowers can absolutely be used for garnish or to add a pop of color to a lavender drink.
If you aren’t sure of the species you’ve got, or you don’t have lavender in your yard, don’t fret – we sell our culinary lavender in a jar, a grinder, and even in bulk. So no matter your price point (or recipe needs), we’ve got you covered.
Up next, we’ll answer more culinary lavender questions, like “How do I use lavender in cooking?”, and “Can I cook with lavender essential oil?” Let us know if you have a culinary lavender question, and we’ll add it to an upcoming blog post!