Every year in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque there is a lavender festival, now also featuring garlic. As it states on the town’s website, lavender is not only a plant with many uses but it also signifies a certain lifestyle that promotes the tranquility and sustainability of a rural, agricultural community. The setting of the festival is in the “green belt,” close to the Rio Grande River and the smell of newly cut alfalfa fields is in the air. The most amazing thing about the celebration, now sponsored by the Growers’ Market, is the number of wares made with lavender, everything from edibles and freshly cut bouquets to essential oils. Vendors tout their unique wares: lavender plants, natural beauty products, teas, candles, lavender themed quilts and pottery, even lavender dresses! There are many different cooking demos with lavender and garlic including a lavender rub and spice mix, fruit/lavender smoothies, cookies and pound cake, jams and jellies and even lavender chocolate and lavender ice cream. It’s a great outing for the whole family.
Not far from the Grower’s Market, heading South down Rio Grande Blvd, is a historic organic lavender farm called Los Poblanos. The lavender fields in bloom are a sight to behold and the harvesting occurs in the month of July, usually by volunteers. At The Farm Store, they distill the essential oil right on the premises and use it to make their signature salve and other skin care products. In addition to the farm, the historic main house provides accommodations for a relaxing weekend getaway or a wedding celebration. There are ongoing educational events such as cooking classes and children love to visit the farm animals.
Most people are familiar with the aromatic properties of lavender and its use in sachets, soaps and candles, but it can also be a culinary delight. Lavender can quickly overpower a dish and give it a bitter taste, so it is best used in small quantities and mixed with other flavors such as mint, lemon balm, vanilla and raspberry or strong Mediterranean herbs such as oregano, marjoram and fennel. I still have a small jar of culinary organic royal velvet lavender seeds that I got at last year’s celebration. With its rubber hermetic seal, it will last for years. With a mortar and pestle, you can grind the seeds and add them to sugar for many baking treats or make a rub combined with other herbs and spices for a delicious roast. You can order their products online at LosPoblanos.com at their Farm Store.
Here is a recipe using lavender that is very tasty and heart healthy as well. It is Chicken Breast with lemon, Lavender and leeks.
- Thoroughly wash 4 chicken breasts under cold running water and pat dry. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Coat a baking pan with olive or grapeseed oil and place the breasts skin side up in the pan.
- Chop sage, lemon balm, tarragon and add the lavender buds that have been pulverized with a mortar and pestle and cover the chicken.
- Chop the leeks and spread over the chicken.
- Cover the leeks and herbs with lemon slices and lay them on the breasts.
- Add one cup of chicken broth and bake at 350 degrees for an hour.
You can bake the chicken covered for a moist version or leave it uncovered for some crispy texture, if you prefer. You can also quickly run it under the broiler at the end to “crisp it up.”
Chicken breasts with lemon and leeks are great served with quinoa or brown rice and a green salad. A single chicken breast with bone is 142 calories; quinoa is 14 calories per tablespoon. A heart healthy meal.