In the 80s, I was post-college and a mega-fan of Laura Ashley; clothing, decor, and lifestyle. The long floral dresses, the little black velvet ribbon necklaces, hair down to my waist with little braids to hold the sides back. I also got into the whole herbs and handcrafts movement. I had 3 different herb gardens at home, one for indigenous plants like maidenhair ferns, lilies of the valley, and wood lilies. Those kind of just appeared on their own in a little rocky alcove under a tall cedar pine next to my house.
I also loved to add unusual plants like towering foxgloves, and my mother’s inherited showy pink quince. We gave it to our neighbors, the whole 8′ across bush, when we moved. And I had an entire area dedicated to thymes, mints (pineapple, chocolate, lemon, peppermint, Catmint, and Kentucky Colonel), sage and oregano. And oh yes, I grew beans, tomatoes, peppers, and the rest. It was a farm after all, and we had lots of space.
Back then it was very much a “thing” to take classes on herbs and herb crafts. I learned to make dried herb cooking wreaths, with bunches of sage and oregano tied to a base of moss. I even made little linen bags filled with Herbs de Provence, and tied them to the wreaths to be snipped off with fancy scissors and dropped into homemade soup.
I also bought tons of books about herbs and cooking with herbs, went to herb and plant fairs, and experimented with using herbs in food. Unfortunately, while my parents were patient with my attempts, neither of them liked spice and were a bit shy around anything different or new. So my experimental cooking in those days was limited. But my mother was up for sudden trips to a food fair, or a plant sale at a local estate. I remember one trip in particular, and it inspired my recipe for today.
Gore Place in Spring
It was 1983 or maybe 1984, I came across an ad in the local paper for a sheepshearing festival and plant sale being held at Gore Place in Waltham, MA. I checked today, and almost 40 years later they are still holding plant sales and have their sheep. The estate is beautiful, with an operational farmon 50 acres of land. While currently, with the quarantine in place, the home is not open for tours, during normal times it’s a great place to visit and learn about life in the 1700s when the property was originally acquired. The current home was built in 1806 after a fire destroyed the first home.
An Inspirational Book
During my first visit, I most definitely bought some new herb plants to add to my garden. I also went into the house because there were some crafters there spinning wool, and selling sweaters, and other handcrafted items. There were also three women selling a book, A Basket of Herbs. It was a collection of poems and sentiments related to various herbs. Limited edition of 1500, I purchased #1492 and had them all sign it. The sad thing is it was also illustrated by Tasha Tudor. She’d been there that afternoon but had headed back to VT because she wasn’t feeling well. So I missed having her sign. We just watched a documentary on her life last weekend, and she was definitely a character of her own design. But I did get the 3 of the four editors, Mary Mason Campbell, Deborah Webster Greeley, and Priscilla Sawyer Lord to sign my copy. I was thrilled.
What does lavender remind you of? I remember the smell of lavender both from my trips to the chemist in England where I bought numerous bars of lavender soap and lavender oil, and trips to Pickity Place in Mason, NH. I loved visiting their numerous gardens in the woods, the greenhouse, and the gift shop always smelled like all the fresh herbs they grew and dried on the property.
It was also the scent of drawer liners I bought during dress shopping trips to the Laura Ashley store on Newbury Street in Boston. Believe me, wearing dresses like that when we were surrounded by the styles of Madonna, the Eurythmics, and the Bangles, gave you an air of eccentricity. But I was okay with that. And there’s something just a bit eccentric about this recipe for cookies with flowers on top! Their taste is unexpected, and delicious. I hope your lavender plants survive.
Lavender Lemon Cookies
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp lavender leaves chopped
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 tsp lemon extract
- 1/4 cup water
- Lavender flowers for decoration.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Grease two baking sheets or use silpats (I have copper non-stick tray liners)
- In a medium bowl, beat eggs, butter, sugar and lavender leaves. Make sure the leaves are chopped fine first, or you’ll need to do this in a blender. You want the leaves to be cut up small and scattered throughout the mixture.
- Put the flour, baking powder and salt into a small bowl and stir with a fork until well mixed.
- Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, a half cup at a time, allowing it to mix in. Mix on medium speed until the butter is well incorporated.
- Drop the batter onto the sheets one spoonful at a time. This is a wet dough, and if I’d had a piping bag, that would have been my choice. But try to keep them in even little blobs! They do spread out when they cook, so make sure they’re at least an inch or so apart
- Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until they just start to brown around the edges.
- Remove from the oven and lift with a spatula onto cooling racks.
- Allow to cool completely before icing.
Instructions for lemon icing
- In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, lemon extract, and water, one tablespoon at a time. You want a smooth easy to spread icing. I end up needing almost 1/4 cup of water to get the consistency I wanted.
- Use a pastry brush to spread icing across the cooled cookies.
- Before the icing is set, press 2 or 3 lavender flowers into the top of each cookie.