Someone's Got Some 'Splainin' To Do
Substitution for Suet

Herbes de Provence - Lavender or No Lavender

Help!  A family feud has erupted about whether or not lavender is  one of the flavors in Herbes de Provence.  I think it makes everything taste like hand soap, but my wife insists it is authentic.  Which of us is right?

I have checked most of my references on authentic french cooking, including Larousse Gastronomique, Julia Child, and a number of others, and can find no explicit reference to Herbes de Provence as a specific mixture.  My guess is that this is because, until recently, herbes de provence was not a specific thing, but rather just meant quite literally "herbs like they use in the region of Provence in France."

The online version of Larousse does not give a specific definition either, but in their recipe for Côtelettes d’agneau grillées aux herbes (Grilled lamb chops with herbs) they do call for "1 cuill. à soupe d’herbes de Provence (thym, origan, romarin)" or "1 tbsp of Herbes de Provence (thyme, oregano, rosemary)."

The other source that I have is the herb grinder I got the last time my wife and I were in Provence.  It lists the ingredients as "Romarin, Basilic, Thym, Marjolaine, Sariette" or "Rosemary, Basil, Thyme, Marjoram, Savory."  Lavender is not included, and appears to be an affectation for the North American market where it can be found in many supermarket spice blends.

To make your own mixture at home, combine equal parts of dried thyme, marjoram and savory, basil and/or oregano, plus half as much dried rosemary, or more to taste.  I don't use lavender for exactly the same reason.  I find it imparts a soapy flavor to foods, and the few times I have tasted it, I found it to be unpleasant.

Sorry I'm not really settling the feud, but I do have a suggestion.  Use the blend suggested above, without lavender, for cooking.  At the dinner table, place a small container of dried lavender or Herbes de Provence containing lavender that people can sprinkle or shake onto their individual serving to their own taste.  Crisis averted.


No Lavender !!

As a french guy (not a Chef!) living in France i can say there is no Lavender in the 'herbe de Provence' blend. I found funny that americans use lavender in cooking. There's no use of lavender in french cuisine nor specifically provence cuisine.

To be honest in modern cuisine, one can find some lavender use as in Crémes Brulées where the milk is sometimes infused with . But i don't like the taste so i prefer "vanilla" ones.

In fact there is no basil either in the real 'herbe de provence' as this blend only includes 'dryable' herbs, and basil don't dry well. But basil is a mainstay of provencal (under the name 'pistou' akin to the italian 'pesto') and south europe cuisine, in a fresh form.

To be purist, 'herbe de provence' should not be used at all, as traditionnal provencal cuisine call for individual herbs to be used in specific cases. The mix is an invention of a big french herb and spice seller, in the 70', for the french customer get access to the 'Provence taste'. Good invention as the mix "est mis à toute les sauces" by the casual cooks for the everyday lunches in salads, grillades, sauté, stew...etc.

Sorry for the broken english.

This is so true! My French grandfather was a chef and he created his own blends of herbs to suit the dish and seasons.

I do this as well and modify the ratios accordingly. A lighter hand with the heavy-hitters in summer, favoring "finishing" herbs such as chervil and parsley. Then in fall the stronger flavors of sage, rosemary and tarragon come to the front lines.

My family gets a tasty reminder of the current season that way, it's kind of cool. And yes, leave the lavender for cosmetic or janitorial uses.

I agree with everything in this article EXCEPT leave the shaker of seasoning off the table. It is NOT for sprinkling on food after it is cooked. Either cook it in or don't cook it in but it does not belong on the table. WARNING! The National Institute of Health warns that consuming lavender may be harmful to pregnant women and young boys due to hormone content and consuming lavender by young boys may cause gynecomastia.

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)