Monday, July 30, 2012

Lavender Harvest

So while I was up in northern Michigan, escaping the DC heat and enjoying some beach time with family, I managed to stumble upon one of the most wonderful sort of places.

Isn't it gorgeous?  Lavender Hills Farm, just outside of Boyne City, Michigan, is absolutely stunning.  And not only is it beautiful and smells like heaven, but they let you pick your own lavender.  Naturally, one visit was not enough.

During the time I was there three different varieties were reading for cutting.  One was grosso, a variety that has a nice strong scent and is mainly used in sachets and as decorative lavender.  The other two, munstead and hidcote, are culinary varieties.  They differ from the other varieties like grosso in that they do not contain camphor, a chemical which adds a bitterness to the taste.

I picked some of each variety, but kept each separate.  Once they are cut, the lavender stalks will start to dry and some of the buds will begin to drop.  You want to save all of those buds, and I didn't want to mix up my culinary and non-culinary varieties!

Once picking is done, you need to lay them out to dry.  They will dry regardless of how they are stored, but for best results you should lay them out in a cool, dry place.  I put mine on two camping mats in my grandma's garage.

After a few days, depending on the weather, the lavender should be dried and the buds ready to harvest.  When the lavender stalks have started dropping a good number of buds and the others easily come off, they are ready for the next step.  To remove the buds from the stems, grab a small bunch of lavender and roll the section with the buds between your hands.  Keep rolling until most of the buds are released.  A few of the last ones you may have to pluck off the stem by hand.

You can use the lavender at this stage, but I definitely recommend doing the last portion, which is screening and sorting the lavender.  The lavender that comes off the stalks has bits of dried stem and leaves mixed in with the buds, so the next step removes those bits which detract from the flavor if you want to bake or cook with your lavender.

I took a bit of screen material and stretched it over the top of a box to make my screen apparatus.  Then, take a bit of your unsorted lavender and place it on one side of your screen.  Use your fingers to gently slide the buds forward, pushing the leaves and stems to the side.  This does take a bit of time, but it is well worth it.  In the picture below, of my hidcote lavender, the left bag has not been sorted and the right bag has been.  See the difference?  Definitely worth a bit of time.  Once you have your lovely sorted lavender, it's ready for baking!  There are tons of lavender recipes, and I'll be putting a couple up shortly!

Happy Lavender Harvesting!

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