Lavender is such a versatile plant, it’s a lovely perennial in your garden, has healing properties and you can cook with it. Lavender, what’s not to love?
Let’s start with the garden. Lavender is fairly easy to grow. Personally, I love any plant that doesn’t mind getting a bit dry. It relieves some of my garden guilt. I’m most familiar with the English Lavenders especially a variety known as Munstead because it is quite hardy here in coastal Maine. If you want to plant some Lavender I do not recommend starting plants by seeds as it is very challenging. It’s easier to buy plants and when you plant in the spring you ensure a long growing period to get established. I recommended buying plants from a local nursery or even better a farmer. That way you know you have a good quality plant that has not be dosed with tons of chemicals. The one tip that I always follow here in Maine with our unpredictable winters is to cover the plants with evergreen boughs in late fall.
It’s so easy to harvest Lavender. Once the flower stems become deep purple start cutting. Lavender is lovely fresh but it’s such a great dried flower I rarely use in summer flower arrangements. Instead dry your Lavender buds and tuck them inside your drawers and with your sheets and towels. To harvest small bouquets of Lavender I use a rubber band around the stem and hang upside down. How long to dry really depends on where you live, humidity and where you decide to dry the bunches. In general, try a cool, dark location is best.
You can also cook with Lavender. I love to put a few fresh cut springs in my herbal tea mix. Later in the winter, I like to add a dried sprig to my teapot. In my opinion, Lavender and chocolate pair really well together. Lavender also looks really pretty floating in any summer drinks including lemonade. A Lavender simple syrup is a wonderful way to add a bright dash of lavender to drinks.
Lavender Simple Syrup
1 cup water
3 tablespoons Lavender buds- fresh or dried, it’s best if they are picked right before full bloom
2 cups sugar
I always feel like cheating on the sugar and honestly often end up with bitter concoctions so I recommended following the proportions first before altering.Bring the water and Lavender to boil, stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Simmer for about 15 minutes and then let steep for at least 1 hour- the longer you steep the more intense the flavor but too long can add a bitter note. Strain out the Lavender and pour into a beautiful bottle. Keep in the fridge.