Lavender is a genus of 47 known species of flowering plants in the mint family. It is cultivated in temperate climates as ornamental plants for gardens, for use as culinary herbs and also commercially for the extraction of essential oils. The most widely cultivated species, Lavandula angustifolia, is referred to as lavender. Culinary lavender is usually English lavender, the most commonly used species in cooking. It has a sweet fragrance and tastes like lemon, and it is used as a spice or condiment in pastas, salads, dressings and desserts. Lavender buds and greens are used in teas, and the buds, which are processed by bees, are the essential ingredient of monofloral honey.
Lavender buds can amplify both sweet and savory flavors in dishes, while flowers are sometimes blended with black, green or herbal teas, and pair well with chocolate. In the US, lavender syrup and dried lavender buds are used to make scones and marshmallows. Lavender greens are used in the same way as rosemary, or are combined with rosemary, to flavor savory meat and vegetable dishes.
The ancient Greeks called lavender nardus and it was one of the holy herbs used in the biblical temple to prepare the holy essence. Lavender was introduced in England in the 1600s as a jam and was used in teas, both medicinally and for its taste. In the 1970s, the blend herbes de Provence, which includes lavender, was invented by spice wholesalers. The most important health benefits of lavender include its ability to relieve stress, improve mood, promote restful sleep, reduce skin irritation, inflammation and dandruff, and soothe stomach bloating.