With March 26th being Purple Day, we look at some of the culinary uses of the purple herb - lavender

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Each month in the ‘Nutrition Matters’ series a special focus will be placed on a culinary herb or spice and the health benefits they offer. With March 26th being Purple Day, a date that is globally set aside each year to increase awareness of epilepsy, it seemed more than appropriate to kick off the ‘Focus on’ features with a look at the purple coloured herb and international colour for epilepsy; lavender.

Source: Flickr/Dave Catchpole

Source: Flickr/Dave Catchpole

Often found in many lotions, bathing products and candles, lavender is more than just a calming scent. While its fragrance is well known for its aromatic properties that aid in relaxation, this herb reaps many other health benefits, and has been known to help alleviate nausea, dry skin, burns, insomnia, digestion and anxiety, and is also a symbol of good luck.

Believe it or not, this beautiful herb, whose origins lie in being used for mummification and perfume by the Egyptians, can also be used in culinary creations. With its clean, sweet, floral and citrus notes, lavender makes a perfect garnish to any dinner plate and can even be used as an ingredient in desserts such as crème brûlée, berries with lavender cream or even cheesecake.

To cook with lavender, it is best to plant and use the sweetest scented varieties. The sweetest among all the lavenders is the English Lavender, so this one is the most commonly used in cooking. A word of warning though, if you are a lavender cooking novice: start with a small amount of flowers and add more as you go. Adding too much will make your dish anything but tasty and instead leave you feeling like you’ve eaten a bowl of potpourri.

Lavender recipe choices are endless, so let your imagination run free. The videos below, featuring Kathy Gehrt, author of ‘Discover Cooking with Lavender’, and raw-vegan superfoodist, Laura Amerson, show some culinary uses for lavender and no doubt after trying the lavender martini, this will be one ‘erb that you won’t want to ‘leaf’ behind. But bear in mind not to eat the flowers from florists or nurseries as these are often sprayed with pesticides and aren’t meant for consumption.