Desert lavender is a pretty shrub that grows in much of the Southwest, and blooms with the summer rains. You can harvest the flower sprigs to make some simple yet tasty desert lavender syrup – great for TGIF Cocktails on the patio, or added to vanilla ice cream for dessert – or both!
Finding Desert Lavender
Hike the canyons, because desert lavender prefers to grow in sandy soils found in canyon bottoms. Hard to mistake the lavender fragrance of both leaves and flowers, which are more blue than lavender I color. Desert lavender (was Hyptis emoryi, now called Condea emoryi) is easy to grow as a landscape plant anywhere it doesn’t get much below 15F, and in most desert soils, unless you have heavy clay. Low-water! Uses less water than Texas ranger, and just as pretty in the landscape. If you don’t have any – consider planting this fragrant shrub that the butterflies also adore as part of your sustainable desert landscape.
Desert Lavender Syrup
6 sprigs of desert lavender – each 5 to 6 inches long
or 2 tablespoons dried desert lavender leaves and flowers
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Combine the three ingredients in a small saucepan and heat until just barely boiling.
Reduce heat and simmer – ! – stirring every so often! – until liquid is reduced by half. This is about 10 minutes.
Let cool. Unless you want this over pancakes, then go ahead and use it warm.
Strain if desired to remove lavender bits.
Notes on Making this Syrup
Over-boiling the sprigs results in a bitter aftertaste, which is fine for the third cocktail, but not so fine on a dish of dessert strawberries.
You can easily quadruple this recipe, and store it in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
You NEED to store this in the refrigerator because sugar plus plants equals a great place for fungus to grow.
No, it is not lavender in color, and you could add food coloring if you really want, but I don’t mind the “herb tea” color.
Serve Your Syrup
Pour desert lavender syrup over sliced strawberries or other mild fruit like peaches or pears. Good on vanilla ice cream – or better yet, strawberries and ice cream!
Add a splash of desert lavender syrup to club soda for a sparkling beverage.
It’s syrup. Tastes fine on pancakes, waffles, and French toast. Nice in baking cakes too.
Use the syrup as a base for a barbecue sauce.
Haven’t used it all? Mix half and half with vodka and store for years. The alcohol will make it inhospitable to fungus. More on Southwest cordials – here. Makes a nice cordial for gifting. Because of the lavender flavoring, you can use a less expensive vodka for this.
Desert Lavender Cocktail Quencher (my own creation)
1 part vodka
1 part desert lavender syrup
3 parts club soda
optional – sprig of desert lavender
Floral Syrups in General
Capture the taste of flowers into a syrup that goes well anywhere a delicate flavor is desired. Syrup from rose petals is another great flavor. Many edible flowers make pleasing syrup, but in general you need the more fragrant ones. Also, some do not respond well to this method of preparation, like orange blossoms.
Thanks for reading!
More cooking and using Southwestern desert lavender and other luscious herbs in Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today (Tierra del Sol Institute Press). This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute will get a few pennies at no additional cost to you.
© Article copyright Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit. You must include a link back to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.
Cover image: Desert lavender in San Bernadino Co., Joshua Tree Nat’l. Park, 7.3 mi. south of Park roads junction, ca. 2,800 ft. elevation. Photo courtesy J. Pawek.
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