At the forefront of what Nickerson calls “kitchen-medicine” are herbs that unlock our senses and help us savor aromas and flavors. These herbs also nourish our physical, spiritual, and emotional worlds by supporting our physiological and mental wellbeing.
This may sound like a tall order from a simple plant, but many herbs have formidable healing qualities that have been employed for generations. While herbs may not be “miracle cures” when compared to some modern medicines, Nickerson notes, they help us better heal ourselves.
Lavender Comes of Age
Used for over 2500 years for everything from repelling moths to healing insect bites, lavender is now often associated with drawer sachets and yogic eye pillows. While its calming properties are no folk tale, the power of lavender goes beyond its delicate scent.
Recommended for anxiety and as a pain-reliever, lavender is also known to relieve indigestion and intestinal cramping. In this age of leaky-guts and upset stomachs, lavender is a soothing antidote to nutrient malabsorption and other afflictions.
Beyond its medicinal properties, lavender has a lovely flavor that enlivens drinks, entrees, and desserts. As summer approaches, bring lavender back into your kitchen by keeping a fresh plant nearby in a window box or on a patio for snipping. Its scent and its flavor will soothe your body and soul.
The following recipes are excerpted from Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen © by Brittany Wood Nickerson, 2017. Photography © by Keller + Keller Photography and Alexandra Grablewski. Used with permission from Storey Publishing. For more delicious, healing herbal recipes visit Recipes From the Herbalist’s Kitchen.
Image credit ©Alexandra Grablewski
Yield: 8 cups
This flowery, slightly sweet drink is a cross between soda and champagne and can contain a very small amount of alcohol. The carbonation is a natural by-product of the fermentation process, a sign that the fizz is active and alive. Naturally fermented beverages are energizing and excellent for digestion. Lavender, a calming aromatic herb from the mint family, helps soothe anxiety, restlessness, anger, tension, and depression. Let the bubbles in this drink lift you up!
7½ cups water
½ cup raw honey
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons fresh or dried lavender flowers
1 lemon, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
- Combine the water, honey, vinegar, lavender, and lemon in a clean half-gallon mason jar, cover with a lid, and shake well until all the honey has dissolved. Set the mixture aside to ferment, covered, at room temperature for 2 days.
- After 2 days, strain out the lavender and lemon. Transfer the liquid into glass or plastic bottles with tight-fitting lids, leaving about ½ inch of headroom in each bottle. (The lids need to be tight fitting to contain the carbonation that is going to develop. If the lids do not fit tightly, the carbonation will escape from the bottles, leaving you with a still delicious yet noncarbonated beverage.)
- Set the bottles aside in a cool, dark place to ferment for 3 days. Then open one of the bottles to taste it. If the soda is still not carbonated, put the lid back on and let the bottles continue fermenting. Taste regularly. The length of time needed to produce carbonation will vary depending on the temperature and the activity of the yeasts in your fizz.
- Once the soda reaches the desired carbonation, transfer the bottles to the refrigerator. The cold temperature will slow the fermentation process and keep the carbonation level as it is.
Note: Sometimes a bit of mold can form on the surface of the soda during the fermentation process. This is just surface mold, and the soda is still good; simply remove the mold and proceed.
Image credit ©Alexandra Grablewski
Sautéed Blueberries with Lavender Essence and Whipped Cream
Yield: 4 servings
When it comes to fresh fruit, less is usually more. This is almost like a blueberry soup — a simple and honest celebration of the berry. The berries are gently warmed, just to coax out the juices, and subtly complemented with aromatic lavender and creamy butter. The best part is watching the whipped cream dissolve softly into the beautiful purple berries, making marbled patterns in varying shades of blue and purple. This makes a great afternoon snack, breakfast, or dessert.
1 tablespoon fresh or dried lavender flowers
¼ cup boiling water
3 cups fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2–4 tablespoons raw honey
1 cup heavy cream
- Put the lavender flowers in a teapot or jar and pour the boiling water over them. Cover with a lid and let steep for 10 minutes, then strain into a saucepan.
- Add the blueberries, butter, and honey to taste to the lavender infusion. Heat over medium heat until the berries soften and release their juices, 5 to 6 minutes.
- While the berries are cooking, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Serve the berries hot, in bowls, with generous dollops of the whipped cream.
Image credit ©Keller + Keller Photography
Lavender Dandelion Muffins*
Yield: about 10 muffins
As ubiquitous as dandelions are, their flowers do not have a long season. Vibrant green grass carpeted with bright yellow flowers so sunny that they boast a golden halo are an iconic spring landscape here in New England. It’s an image that can’t help but inspire a daydream of children happily racing about, picking flowers to make a dandelion chain, and laughing as they collapse to the ground, filled with pure joy at being finally sprung from the house after a long winter. It doesn’t matter that the flowers quickly wilt — the joy and laughter of spring remain long after the blossoms have passed.
2¼ cups flour (I use a combination of white and wheat spelt)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup milk
½–¾ cup honey (depending on how sweet you like your muffins)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups loosely packed dandelion flower petals (base and green leaves removed)
2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Generously grease 10 cups in a muffin pan.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl and mix well.
- Combine the butter, eggs, milk, honey, and vanilla in a separate bowl and whisk together. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the dandelion petals, lavender flowers, and nuts, if using, and stir until just combined.
- Fill the prepared muffin cups to the top with batter. Bake for 14 to 17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
*Lavender dandelion muffins pictured above in this article’s title image. Image credit ©Keller + Keller Photography