This enchanting photographic composition by Sherry Hicks precisely illustrates the traditional uses of lavender. No, it’s not French. The scales are clearly emblazoned Old Kentucky Home, but the picture has a universal quality. It’s about correct quantities in the countryside where the inhabitants would use whatever natural produce was at hand for both cooking and home-made remedies.
Beyond the use of lavender in perfumery, there’s hardly an ailment that lavender can’t cure, it seems. There are potions and infusions for nervous emergencies, and for ailments ranging from asthma to fever, nasal congestion, fainting to stomach disorders, headaches to rheumatisms.
, an influenza cure was made by boiling a litre of water to which was added a whole fifty grams of flowers, left to infuse for several hours. It would then be reheated, and the patient (as if they hadn’t suffered enough) made to drink it all straight down. They would sweat profusely, and have to run for the outside privy, but the potion was deemed to have a potent effect on the body. Provence
To maintain his health, Napoleon is supposed to have swilled two bottles of lavender essence a day month. It's claimed he even drank it before rising from his campaign bed and appearing on the battlefield! I suspect this heroic consumption may have been encouraged by the level of preserving alcohol in his favourite brew…
There is a more traditional recipe for lavender aperitif that is based on lavender flowers marinated in white wine. After a week it is filtered, and sweetened with sugar and honey before it is bottled. It’s an acquired taste, rather like the lavender ice-creams and crème brulées served in summer. (A few teaspoons are enough for me: one of the few times when I feel the interest lies in tasting what is essentially an interesting idea rather than actually wanting to eat it. The same goes for the lavender biscuits sold in Apt market.)
My choice would be to mix it into a homemade pot-pourri to perfume the house: allow lavender flowers, thyme flowers and mint leaves to dry, then add several cloves and place in open bowls.
And to dream a while, here is photographer Hans Silvester’s picture book Lavender, Fragrance of Provence, a fine sourcebook should you be searching for that perfect field in which to sit and embrace a perfumed world.
Sherry Hicks writes The Shanty Girl blog here – as she puts it, searching for the balance between rust and glamour, with a dash of
Provence in . Texas