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Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Spanish Lavender
Photo from:
Ast. atayo, Madrid hierba de San Juan, L. Lavandula stoeches, Eng. French lavender (in Europe), Spanish lavender (in America). Cantueso is derived from L. chamoetŭsiuso, which in turn comes from Gr. chamai thyos. It is thought that this means “incense of the land.” It is debatable whether this ancient Mediterranean flower is native of Spain or the Hyères Islands, called Stoichades by the Greeks. These islands are SW of Toulon in the Mediterranean. In Spain, they are found in almost the entire peninsula and the Balearic Islands, growing up to 1,000 m. in altitude. They are rare in the north and northwest. As the Romans put a few drops into their baths, it is thought that the word “lavender” stems from that for the L. lavand meaning washing.

Spanish/French lavender flowers have been used since time immemorial to perfume chests and wardrobes. The leaves have been used as much as the buds. Dioscorides prescribed a lavender drink or lavender added to baths to purge the phlegm and melancholy and to relieve all head cold illnesses. Arabs concurred with him and cultivated for these purposes.

Honey Bee 
Photo from: alasam
Avenzoar recommended lavender syrup as a laxative, to fortify the internal organs and to help those suffering from prostration, hemiplegia and plethora. Until the end of the Middle Ages, lavender from Arabia, which was called sticas arabica, was thought better.

In Christian Spain, lavender has been used as an antispasmodic and was recommended for asthma, cramps and pulmonary diseases. It was added to medicines against poisoning. It was found useful to treat epilepsy and to relieve head colds. Beverages and liquors have been made with it. In cookery, it is added to salads, soups, eggplant, fish, fowl, lamb, cheese, pickles, sauces and quince.

The addition of Spanish/French lavender honey (see miel de cantueso) always has been a special treat. Since 1826, stoechas oil has been distilled to make lavender water. The seeds are not used for the bush to multiply, but it is divided down to the roots and replanted. It was said that if the seeds were kept in a warm spot, they would turn into moths. In Madrid, the hierba de San Juan (St. John’s Herb) is sold in the area between the Plaza Mayor and Santa Cruz parish on the eve and day of this saint (June 25th, which coincides with Midsummer’s Night).

Lavender is not used as an ingredient in Sent Soví or Nola. The 13th C Anón Al-Andalus calls for lavender frequently which Huici translates as spike lavender and Perry as lavender. It seems quite possible that French/Spanish lavender was the lavender used in Hispano-Arab dishes.

(Note: Names for lavender are confusing and contradictory and the common names are sometimes inconsistent. For instance, Lavandula angustifolia, usually referred to as English lavender, grows wild in southern France. Lavandula stoechas, which grows wild in Spain, is referred to as French lavender, above.  Additionally, Lavandula spica is thought to be a non-specific name. It is possible that it is a form of angustifolia. To eliminate confusion as few common names of lavenders as possible are included in this text.) See espliego. [Anón/Huici.  1966:511:278-279; Ency Brit.1988:7:Krasnokamsk:199:1b; Font. Plantas, 1999:457:657-659; Ibn Zuhr/García Sánchez. 1992:89:102; Silva. 1994:174; Stuart. 1987:212; and Usher 1974:346]


Salting Essential to Eliminate Bitterness
Photo by: Lord-Williams

4 eggplants
1 onion
2 tbsp - ¼ c cilantro juice
salt to taste
1 garlic clove
1 c breadcrumbs
1 tbsp sifted flour
1 tbsp Byzantine murri[2]
1 tsp peppercorns
½ tsp freshly ground cinnamon
1 tbsp lavender
6 eggs

leaves which can include coriander, citron, mint and/or rue
1 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar

Stuffed Eggplant
Photo by: Lord-Willams

Cut medium-sized eggplants in half. Rub the flesh with salt and turn face down on paper towels for 10 minutes at least to let the bitterness to run off. Bring water to a boil and add the eggplants. Watch carefully, pricking with a fork to check to see if the flesh is soft. It takes about 10 minutes. When cooked put them in cold water.

Chop onion and fry until translucent. Remove the onion from the pan and put the pan aside for further use. 

Make cilantro juice by putting cilantro in a food processor with water. Grind it three or four times. Strain reserving the leaves and the juice separately. The leaves can be dried stored with other herbs and spices. Left over juice can be frozen.


Peel garlic and mash it in a food processor with a pinch of salt, cold breadcrumbs, sifted flour, Byzantine murri and cilantro juice.  Squeeze water out of eggplants and remove the flesh reserving the skins. Add the flesh to the food processor with ground peppercorns, cinnamon and lavender.

Beat 6 egg whites and fold them into the eggplant mixture. Place the mixture in the eggplant skins and put them in an ovenproof dish. Bake them in the oven until browned on top about 20 minutes.

Boil the yolks and then lightly fry them in the olive oil left over from the onion. 

Put the eggplants on a platter. Cut up the egg yolks or leave them whole and garnish the eggplants with them.  Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top.

[1] See blog titled beregeneros published on March 2, 2012 for a different version of this recipe.  
[2] See blog titled almorí published August 25, 2011 for recipe.

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