a Scent of Lavender…

It’s hard to believe that March is almost to a close, and with it… the all too soon end of Bring it Home month, where we’ve been discussing how to bring a little bit of France into your home, for way less than the price of airfare!

Today we’re talking…

Lavender

lavender3b

My earliest memories of lavender, I won’t deny it, were of soap in my grandmother’s linen closet and at the time… it wasn’t my favorite smell but on the up-side, when Christmas came ’round, there was no need to second guess what to get gramma… lavender soap was always a safe bet – and economical too (Marks & Spencer here we’d come).

Then, from time to time, you’d also come across lavender sachets tucked neatly away in the back of dresser drawers. A novel concept and, truth be told, a nicer scent than the very perfume-y smell of the soap.

But then, while living in Belgium (1990-1992) I had good friends who frequently vacationed in southern France and they’d tell me about entire fields of lavender (see. pic to the right). In 1995, I got to experience one for myself, in southern France… Magical!

Lavender is pretty much synonymous with southern France. Dried bunches adorn houses inside and out, blossoms are harvested for the perfume and essential oil industries, it inspires artists and fabric designers and finds its way into a great many foodie-dishes!

The first time I was in the market place in southern France and saw “Lavender Honey” I thought… “Marketing Gimmick… just another product to commercialize the region!”

I was wrong.

The bee colonies that call the lavender fields home truly do craft lavender-tasting honey. It’s delicious!  (similarly… in areas where there is an abundance of eucalyptus or chestnut trees, the honey takes on those very distinctive tastes as well.)

Bring it Home

It’s no longer uncommon to find lavender plants sold in your local garden center; even in the Maritime Provinces and grows reasonably well here (we’re in a zone 5b). From the time we were married I’ve had lavender growing in the garden. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

lavdender

  • Lavender is very drought tolerant – no need to water a lot once established. Give it as much sun and warmth as you can for best results (this patch to the left is planted on the top of a hillside at the foot of a fence).
  • Cuttings from a well established plant can be very easily rooted using an inexpensive rooting hormone (dip the woody end of the cutting into the rooting hormone, shove into the ground – cool semi-shaded spot for 1 growing season – then, when rooted-out, transplant).
  • If harvesting the blossoms in bunches, it’s best to do it right before the flower buds open. You can dry bunches by tying the stems together and hanging upside down or work the stems, while still green, into lavender wands using ribbon (here’s a great tutorial on making lavender wands, from Frances over at Fairegarden).

Other uses for Lavender blossoms

Here are a few other things I’ve done with the unopened lavender blossoms (carefully remove the purple flower bud from the stem and the green bud at the base of each flower bud):
*note: ONLY use home-grown lavender for food preparation if you use NO chemicals or pesticides in your garden*

  • Homemade Lavender Ice Cream: Place the buds into a saucepan with your milk & cream mixture, heat it to simmering point then strain off the flower buds. This allows the milk mixture to take on the flavour, thus flavouring the ice cream.
  • Lavender sugar: Using a new (or well-cleaned) coffee grinder, mix flower buds in with granulated sugar and grind well. This releases essential oils into the sugar, flavouring it.
    Note that the ground bits of lavender flowers will still be in the sugar, but they’ll be minuscule, so you won’t notice it… it is edible and adds to the flavour and colour.
  • Lavender sugar cookies:  begin by making lavender sugar as above and use in a basic sugar cookie recipe. (if you ice your sugar cookies, save a few of the unopened lavender buds to use as a garnish)

 There are just a few ways to add a taste of southern France to your garden and your home. Stay tuned for our last Bring it Home post this Saturday morning.

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