Over 20 genuses of lavender and hundreds of named varieties exist, but only a few are commonly harvested for their useful purposes. The true lavenders (Lavandula angustifolia) known as the English lavenders like ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ are among the most popular. The large and abundant ‘Grosso’ and ‘Provence’ have become popular for their heavy oil and flower production. Once a gardener grows lavender, the next discovery becomes all the creative ways to use it.
The essential oil that gives lavender its fragrance and flavor can be found in all parts of the plant but is most concentrated in the tiny purple flower buds. On the stem most lavender flower buds have a gray appearance before the flowers open. When the color becomes more purple but the petals are not yet open, then it’s time for harvest. Harvest on a dry day in the morning, after the dew dries, but before the hot sun begins release precious oils. Cut the full length of the flower stems. Bundle stems into a 2 inch diameter bunch, bind with a rubber band and hang to dry. When the buds dry and start to drop off, tie a grocery-type paper bag over the bundle and shake the stems until all the buds fall into the bottom of the bag. Store completely dried buds in a clean glass jar.
Favorite uses for lavender buds
Fill fabric bags with dried lavender and place in clothing drawers and closets for a natural air freshener and to help repel moths.
Chocolate and lavender make flavorful companions; add fresh "Hidcote" lavender buds to brownies or chocolate frosting to infuse an earthy perfumed sweetness.
Tuck small envelopes of dried lavender buds in book pages to keep away musty smells.
Promote relaxing sleep by tucking sachets of dried lavender in pillowcases.
Use as a carpet freshener. Place dried buds on carpet, allow to sit for at least 15 minutes then vacuum up.
Freeze fresh lavender buds and chopped spearmint into ice cubes; use to chill down lemonade or iced tea.
Add fresh buds to shortbread cookie recipes to infuse a perfumed sweetness.
Want to learn more? Join me for a free seminar, "In Love with Lavender" at Molbak’s Garden+Home on Saturday, July 30 from 10-11 a.m.
Sue Goetz CPH, is a garden coach, designer, speaker and writer from Gig Harbor. She is also the author of a series of garden booklets, including "In Love with Lavender." Visit her website at www.thecreativegardener.com for more information.