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Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Spike Lavender
Photo by: Lord-Williams
L. Lavandula spica, officinalis or vera, Eng. spike lavender (Dutch or lesser lavender). It is a native of central and Western Mediterranean basin. Spike lavender grows on rocky slopes and hills throughout the Pyrenees and some nearby mountains as in those separating Aragon, Catalonia and the ancient Kingdom of Valencia. It thrives between 600-1700 m. above sea level.

During the Middle Ages lavender was exported from Menorca, Spain to England. Spike lavender is the weakest and least pleasant of the lavender family. The fragrant leaves and purple flowers bloom in June and throughout the summer. During this time bees find the nectar flowers a good source for honey making.

In August, only the flowers and leaves they are harvested, dried and added to sachets. Perfume was made from them too. As spikenard, the flowers are used to make spike oil, an essential aromatic oil, obtained by distilling the flowers. This is used to make lavender water. The distillation process was not discovered until 1826. A cruder oil was obtained that was rubbed on the body to deter insects during the Middle Ages. Applied to insects stings, it relieves itching and inflammation. Massaging the temples with a few drops calms headaches and a five drops added to bath water alleviates muscular tension, tones up the nervous system and relaxes one for a good night’s sleep. The oil also has been placed on the forehead and pillow for the same reason. In short, it is calming, relaxing and cleansing.

Oh the lavender
Photo from: Nessy Samuel Photo
Over the ages, it has been used in local remedies to control menstruation and to induce abortion. An infusion after meals acts as a digestive and stimulant. It is used also for rheumatism, pains in the joints and as an activator for circulation when tired. It is a powerful antiseptic and helps heal burns, wounds and sores. With the exception of Elizabeth I, who drank 10 cups a day of lavender water for migraine headaches and munched on candied flowers and leaves for her sweet but rotten tooth, it did not become popular among the English until the 19th C. It is said that smelling this lavender frequently leads to long life, perhaps that too had an effect on the English queen.

In cookery, the flowers are used for flavoring vinegar, jams, sweets and cream. In main dishes, spike lavender is used with care for its dominating flavor. Too much lavender can produce and unpleasantly bitter flavor. It is too strong for breads and sweet desserts. Generally, it is recommended for grilled red meat, mutton, fish and strong cheeses. Anón Al-Andalus adds spike lavener to innumerous fowl, mutton, eggplant and cheese dishes.

On midsummer’s night eve, June 25th (which coincides with the eve of St. John’s Day), this lavender was offered to the Gods and Goddesses by strewing it on bonfires. Too, it has been burned for purification and peace. Spike lavender should not be confused this lavender with nard or spikenard, see cantueso and nardo.

[Anón/Huici.1966:73:52-53:81:57:342:189 etc; Ency Brit.1988:7:Krasnokamsk:199:1b; ES: Carroll-Mann. Nola-2. Jun 6, 02:ftn 35; Espasa. 1988:22:España:305; and Font. Plantas. 1999:455:654]

For 4 persons


1 chicken[1]
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper
¼ c almonds
6 eggs
¼ c whole pine kernels
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cassia
1 tsp ginger scrapings
1 tsp ground lavender
1 tsp murri[2]
3 tbsp olive oil


¼ tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp rue leaves
4 hard boiled egg yolks

Cold Chicken
A Novelty for Summer Picnics
Photo by: Lord-Williams

Wash the chicken, clean it and sprinkle it with salt and pepper; put it in a pot and cover it with chopped almonds. Add six eggs, whole pine kernels, white pepper, cinnamon, cassia, ginger, lavender and murri; mix all well and add olive oil and about 2 c water.

Place it on the hearth. Simmer until cooked. Slice it and put it on a platter and sprinkle it with white pepper ad cinnamon. Chop rue and sprinkle that over it. Garnish with cooked egg yolks and serve. 

[1] 1 whole chicken breast was used as it is enough for 4 persons
[2] See blog titled almorí published August 25, 2011.

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