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Lavender Vs Rosemary Essential Differences In The Garden & Kitchen

Knowing the differences between Lavender & Rosemary can be useful in the garden as well as the kitchen and beyond.

There are differences in height, spread and flowering from spikes to inter leaf flowers. You will find that both lavender and rosemary are a great addition to a sunny garden with free draining soil, but lavender will be used more in sweet dishes and rosemary in savory.

The differences can be unimportant when coupled with most kitchen gardener’s enthusiasm but are worth looking at in more detail to understand how to get the most from each plant.

lavender vs rosemary

Lavender Vs Rosemary In The Garden

Both lavender and rosemary have a lot to offer in our gardens, more than just to add to our culinary uses.

  • Lavender and Rosemary are both evergreen hardy perennials and as such will give nice foliage during Winter months. Lavender may tend towards woodiness and need a bit of pre-Winter trim back. A light mulch will help protect it from the worst of the Winter rains as well.
  • Lavender Lavandula will grow to as high as 24 inches at the top of the flower stalks. making it a compact shrub and suitable for pathways or flowerbeds. Rosemary Rosmarinus Officinalis will grow to be around 6 feet in height and 5 feet in spread. However a dwarf rosemary may work well when interplanted with lavender and form a highly aromatic border.
  • Both lavender and rosemary love free draining soil with very little in terms of nutrients or added feed. They love full sunlight and are drought tolerant. Making them ideal planting companions, whether in that border we mentioned or in a large pot.
  • Lavender flowers are on spikes and can be 40-60cms in height. The flowers are closed bud, cups like in shape and ranging from dark purple to light blue in color. Rosemary flowers in between leaves. They tend towards a lighter blue and are open petals. Rosemary flowers from early Spring in the UK and Lavender will need the full heat of the Summer to start to flower.
  • Both lavender and rosemary have pine like needles, that are softer and more pliable than true pine needles though. When brushed passed or rubbed they release their aroma. Lavender being floral and light, rosemary being earthy and pungently tea like with a pine overtone.
  • We run a large Facebook group and lavender is a common herb that people find hard to keep alive, whereas rosemary is one of those indestructible shrubs that anyone can grow.
  • Both lavender and rosemary can be grown from propagation of softwood or hardwood cuttings. Both enjoying cuttings being taken in early Spring or later in the season, end of Fall / Autumn.
  • You can grow lavender and rosemary in pots or containers. Just give lots of drainage and plenty of space to avoid the plants becoming root bound. This is a good solution to lavender dying off during winter due to rainfall. You can move your lavender plants to a more sheltered spot once the rains start.

Lavender Vs Rosemary In The Kitchen

While lavender and rosemary do look alike they are used in different ways and for varied uses.

Lavender has a soft floral note with a pungent earthiness and gentle sweetness. The flowers are eaten for their subtle flavor. Lavender works well in sweet dishes, whereas Rosemary is more suited to savory. Rosemary tastes of pungent piney earthiness with a mint like astringency.

Rosemary works well with heavy meat dishes like lamb or pork and can cut through that richness. Used to bring out the flavors of other elements in a recipe. Lavender is a hard to come by ingredient, especially for culinary uses. You need a suitable cultivar to avoid that soapy taste.

In North America the recipe for Herbes De Provence contains culinary lavender and it adds a very gentle sweetness to any dish. You may use this with lighter meat dishes, chicken or even fish for example. With rosemary this may prove to be an overwhelming flavor.

You do not eat the leaves of lavender, you tend to make herbal infusions from the leaves, but not cook. Instead you use the dried flower buds. You can either cook with them after processing them into a finer powder, or use them to infuse sugars to then add to coffee or cake mixtures. Rosemary leaves and stems are used in cooking, although we do not eat the stems or woody stalks.

A herbal tea made with lavender is fabulous for those who are struggling to sleep, however rosemary infusions can be a little too pungent on their own. Rosemary is very much a herb that can be paired with other strong flavors.

Rosemary pairs well with strong herbs and spices like garlic or thyme. A roasted camembert with garlic and rosemary is a delight! Lavender, however would be lost with heavy flavors and works best on it’s own or with a light citrus note. Lavender shortbread with a drop of vanilla extract is a gentle tea time treat.

Can Rosemary & Lavender Replace Each Other In Recipes

Rosemary is very much a dominant flavor in cooking and will lead to overpowering other herbs if used in the same way as lavender. So add it earlier to a dish and in smaller portions. Whilst you can eat raw rosemary it will be too astringent and that piney mint will kick you in the taste buds. I would not recommend rosemary in most sweet dishes that include lavender.

Conversely if you are using lavender to replace rosemary then you will need to add in larger quantities and add later on in the dish. There are other more suitable replacements for rosemary. Rosemary flowers do make a good replacement for lavender flowers when used as a garnish.

lavender vs rosemary
Lavender Vs Rosemary: Two essential herbs to grow and use in home cooking.

What Next

Rosemary makes a great replacement in a garden border where perhaps a lavender has become too woody or died off. It is one of those personal preferences but we have seen time and again from our members that rosemary is an easier shrub to grow than lavender. Lavender Vs rosemary in cooking is hard to decide on as you really will need to look at a dish by dish basis. Some savory dishes will take the heavy flavor of rosemary, whilst sweet dishes will need the lightness of lavender.

Further Reading

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