Culinary Lavender is preparing to flower here in the Pacific Northwest and I want to equip you on how to harvest, dry, debud, use lavender in cooking and how to store your culinary buds for an amazing lavender season!
June Begins Lavender Season in the Pacific Northwest!
I’m getting giddy in anticipation of lavender season. I begin the countdown as our lavender is beginning to turn its shades of purples and blue. Today I want to to give you the information you would need to gather from your garden or a local u-pick lavender farm your very own culinary lavender. I’ll share with you a quick and simple, “how to guide” on how to harvest, how to dry bouquets, how to prepare it for food and even how to keep it fresh.
But first a little fun history- Lavandula Angustifolia, also known as English lavender, is the varietals you will use for your culinary adventures in the kitchen. This sweet floral herb has been used historically for medicinal purposes as well as beloved flavor in cooking. Lavender was made popular by Queen Elizabeth who valued lavender conserve on her morning toast, used as lavender tea medicinally for her migraines and minor ailments and was known to use lavender oil daily as her perfume of choice.
So now that you know a little bit of fun history you too can harvest your own culinary lavender to use as medicinal tea, or in various recipes and so much more….just as Queen Elizabeth did and so many others before her. So let’s get down to the basics so you will be prepared.
When to harvest
You will want to harvest for your culinary lavender when your lavender stalks have about 2 flowers open. The flowers opening signals to us that the plant is mature and can hold its stems straight. It also lets us know that the lavender oil has reached the flower buds for a quality lavender culinary bud. As we all know when you cook with lavender you are using the bud, not the bloomed flower.
How to dry it
After cutting your lavender place a rubber band around your stems. Hang upside down for 1-2 weeks or until has dried. We use the “snap test” to ensure the lavender is dry. To do this you will bend one of the stems of lavender, if it snaps you know it is red, if it is pliable it will need more time to dry.
How to prepare-fresh or dried
Lavender can be used fresh or dried. When using fresh the general rule of thumb is one tablespoon of fresh herbs to one teaspoon of dried herbs.
How to remove the lavender buds from the stems
To remove the buds from the stem you can roll the bouquet between your hands over a bowl. The buds will fall off into the bowl. We like to sift the buds to remove any dust particles, pick out and remove any dried leaves and then place into a spice jar or small clean glass jar.
How to adapt your own recipe
Lavender is a fabulous companion to desserts, but you can also substitute culinary lavender in place of rosemary in your favorite recipes.
How to keep it fresh
Lavender once dried is like the other herbs in your cupboard. You will keep them away from direct light and stored in an airtight container to retain color and flavor. It is recommended you use it within a years time. It will last much longer, but will lose some flavor as time goes by.
If you’ve read this far and think….love all of that but…ummm, don’t want to do all that! No worries we are stocked up on culinary lavender in our shop and you get that here! If you need more recipe ideas check out our blog/recipe section and if you use this information to harvest your own culinary lavender we love when people share with us at #norwoodlavenderfarm!
Lavender is a beautiful plant and fairly easy to grow. Let me teach you a little about the soil requirements, how much water it needs, when to plant and the spacing between plants that will all help you to add beautiful lavender plants in your landscape or garden.
Lavender is a mediterranean plant that flourishes best in a more alkaline soil with a pH balance between 6.5-7.5, nice aerated or rocky soil, with full sun and very little water.
Soil pH is a way to start your plant off right. Depending your region and the condition of your soil you may need to add a little lime to your soil to raise the pH to around 7. A simple soil test can tell you what the value of your soil is so you know how to help set up the plant for success. You want a nice airy type soil so if you have a lot of clay you may consider adding a little bit of mushroom compost to lighten up the soil. Lavender doesn't require many other amendments.
Lavender loves its space and doesn't like to be crowded, it will thrive better if it has more breathing room. Spacing requirements depend on the type of lavender you get. If you get an Angustifolia variety also referred to as English or culinary your spacing should be about 3’ between plants. If you get a Lavandula x intermedia, also referred to Lavandin or French lavender you will want a 5’ spacing. This will allow your lavender to breathe and have room to expand their flowers spikes in their season of blooming.
Lavender needs water to get established you will water it frequently as you want the soil to be moist for the roots to begin to reach into your soil. This may be every other day to begin with. After about a week spread the watering to every couple days then the following week see if you can spread the water out one more day. By this time your lavender is beginning to make its root system into its new location and getting established. Once it is gets established in your garden, after its first season, it requires very little water so it is recommended you plant it with other drought tolerant hardy plants that have similar watering needs.
When to plant
Lavender typically gets planted in Spring or Fall, 6-8 weeks after last frost date or before frost date in fall. This will enable your plant to get established before the heat of the summer and or before dormancy of winter.
Lavender is beautiful plant for your landscape and with this information it will be beautiful in your yard or garden. I recommend you get both Angustifolia and Lavandin varieties as they bloom at different times this will help to extend your color bloom during the season. In addition the flower use from these two types are different. For example the Angustifolia you can use in your culinary adventures where the Lavandin is used for it's more fragrant nature in sachets, and eye pillows. I'll write another blog post on this, but here is to wishing you a happy planting season!
Growing lavender is best done but taking cuttings or what is referred to as propagation from one plant to begin your next plant. They will often be more successful than growing by seed. This also insures that the plant is exactly like the parent plant.
Lavender cuttings can be used as soft cuttings or hard cuttings.
Soft cuttings are soft pliable new growth tips abundant in spring when your plant has a lot of new growth.
Hard cuttings are firmer stalks harder to bend and are available in spring and fall.
Weather you choose soft or hard you will cut 3-4 inch plant cutting. Using a knife cut the stem from the plant. Once cut, remove the bottom 2 inches of leaves and scrape off the skin where you have removed the leaves. place the lower 2 inches of the cutting into pot filled with a commercial soil medium.
Cover the pot with a plastic bag or place in greenhouse the pot in a sunny area and water the cuttings just as necessary as to much water will cause mold. You want it just lightly damp like a wrung out washcloth. It typically takes 2-4 weeks for the roots to develop. You can tell if your plant has begun to develop roots by ever so gently pulling on your plant to see if it gives resistance. Once it has developed roots you will remove the plastic bag. Place in a sunny location and water when soil becomes dry. Plants in pots can lose nutrients quickly so you can give it some liquid fertilizer diluted to 1/4 of the strength. You can place in the ground about 8 weeks after your last frost date. Within 2 months you can see the flowers blooming and spreads beautiful fragrances.
I hope this has helped you be inspired to grow some lavender!
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I am Nicole Callen, lavender lover, farmer, and owner of Norwood Lavender Farm. My intention for this page is to bring you great lavender related content that you can use. Most of it contains culinary adventures that transpire in my kitchen, as I have a love for the complex floral flavor and depth that lavender brings to cooking. I like to say, "where nature meets gourmet".