We All Whisper for Lavender

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett

In my family, it doesn’t feel like summer if we’ve haven’t milked something.

It certainly hasn’t always been this way: We are city (well, town, at least) people. For several summers, though, we’ve ended up staying in cottages or homes on farms where we get to milk a cow, bottle-feed a 12-hour-old calf, milk some goats, collect freshly laid (hot!) eggs, and pet a llama or two. From the first llama and its baby, Surprise (who knew when they bought the llama she was with child?), and the farm’s three-legged cat, Tripod, the children have been enchanted.

Last week, we rented a mountain cottage at a lavender farm. The children got attached to the farm’s dog, I got attached to the hens (please, I want a coop and 5 chicks for my birthday!), and we all got attached to the goats’-milk ice cream made from the farm’s fresh milk and lavender.

As the author of two cookbooks on baking with herbs, I know how tricky lavender can be. Too much, and you think you’re eating soap, or maybe your grandma’s nightie. Get it right, though, and that floral hint makes just the right perfume for your sweets.

Unfortunately, we had to come home, and leave the dog, pedalboat, riverĀ and lavender labyrinth behind. But my daughter brought back a lavender-filled silk eye pillow, and I brought a bag of lavender-vanilla chai mix and the memories of those ice creams — one chocolate-lavender, the other a smooth lavender cream.

Soon after, at the farmers’ market, I succumbed, as usual, to the far-too-big-for-one-family basket of peaches. We love peaches. They transport me to the sandbox rim at vacation Bible school, warm juice dripping down my 6-year-old arm. There’s just one problem: They all get soft at once. How much peach pie can anyone actually eat?

We eat peaches and cream for breakfast, peach slices at lunch, and peach in our supper salads, and pie after, but still more wait on my counter, moistening the stamps on the fruit-fly invitations.

This time, instead of searching my cookbooks for ideas, the answer was obvious: lavender. I put up jars of lavender peach jam, and then pulled out the cream. A brief infusion of lavender into a bit of milk, and my simple peach ice cream got sweetly high-falutin.’ I had my first taste while the rest of the family went fishing, and nearly squirreled away the whole container for some late-night dips. I couldn’t stand the guilt, though: Ice cream that whispers lavender to my farm-deprived children surely lessens the pain of a dog-less, goat-less, llama-less house in the city. (I still need those hens, though.)

Recipe: Lavender Peach Ice Cream

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