The Luxury of Lavender- 

Peconic River Herb Farm- Specialty Plant Nursery

      Peconic River Herb Farm celebrates lavender as the most useful of all plants.  For the gardener in the landscape it is a stunning, deliciously fragrant, sand & sun lover.  It’s salt & drought tolerant, and deer resistant too!

            In aromatherapy, as massage oil, it is used as a soothing sedative.  Medicinally, it is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory; making an excellent ointment for burns and bites.  Lavender’s antiseptic qualities first drew people to use it on their linens as a vermifuge and it has been in soap and sachet mixtures ever since.

            For the chef, nothing beats lavender ice cream or sorbet.  It is wonderful in teas, jellies & jams, punches, desserts and a dried grilling blend known as Herbes de Provence.Dried lavender stems have also been used in smoking fish and meats and in grilling.

Here at PRHF we have over 18 varieties of lavender and a host of lavender products.

Indulge Your Senses with the Luxuries of Lavender!

            Lavender from the Latin ‘lavare’ (to wash) was a favorite bathwater additive of the Greeks & Romans.  It is a shrubby plant cultivated extensively in France and England for its aromatic flowers.  The fragrant oil is a valuable commodity in the perfume industry while the dried flowers are prized in sachets & potpourri.  Oils from different species vary in value.  L. angustifolia English has the best fragrance, L latifolia ‘Spike’ produces 3 times the oil, is used in cheaper perfumes & L. intermedia yields ‘lavendin’, a medium quality oil.  It is said that English lavender has the best quality of all perhaps due to climatic conditions there.  An estimated 60 lbs. of lavender flowers is needed for approximately 16 oz. of oil.

 

Some Types of Lavender Available at Peconic River Herb Farm

Lavendula angustifolia or English lavender- - perennial, 18-24”, from seeds, some variations

L. angustifolia ‘Hidcote’- - perennial, 12-18”, dark purple flowers

L. angustifolia ‘Munstead’- - perennial, 12-18”, dwarf, dark purple flowers

L. angustifolia  ‘Big Time Blue’- - perennial, 2’, new seed variety, blooms the 1st year, very deep purple flowers

L. angustifolia ‘Thumbelina Leigh’ very diminutive for small gardens, pots, troughs

L. dentata FRENCH- - tender perennial, 24-30”, ever-blooming great for landscape or pots

L. heterophylla SWEET- - tender perennial, 18-24”, extra fragrant

L. x intermedia ‘Grosso’- - perennial, 36”, “Fat Spike’ super for cut flowers

L. intermedia ‘Provence’- - perennial, 24”, French hybrid for oil production long bloom period. Many shades of purple

L. intermedia ‘Phenomenal’- - perennial, 36”, long stems for cutting, long bloom period more tolerant of humidity

L. intermedia ‘White Spike’- - perennial, 24”, white form of ‘Grosso’

L. multifida FRENCH- - tender perennial, 12-18”, room freshener, house plant for sunny window

L. pinnata FERN LEAF- - tender perennial, 12-24”, container or topiary

L. stoechas  SPANISH- tender perennial, 24”, highly fragrant insect repellant great container or topiary, blooms all summer deer proof -loves hot sun also can be used as summer annual in beds

 Cultivation-A well-drained, not too rich, uncrowded site in full sun is essential.  Plants should be spaced about 3’ from each other.  Lime should be added yearly, wood ashes also improve soil alkalinity.  Mulch with clean sand, oyster shells,or light colored gravel for vastly increased productivity. Propagation can be from seed, cuttings or layering.  New beds can be started alongside old to replace more woody, straggly specimens.  Blooms 4-6 weeks in late June/July. If planting in pots be sure to have large drain holes and a porus material, clay is ideal. Cut back to a nice tight mounded shape after blossoms fade. Expect some repeat bloom in late summer fall if cut back in time.

  Harvest-For drying purposes, when a few flowers have budded and are open.  For oil, when flowers are fully open. To harvest cut as long a stem as possible without cutting back into the plants foliage too much.  Drying should be done immediately in a well ventilated, warm, dark & dry area, hang bunches upside down to keep stems straight.

  Other Methods of Preservation-lavender oil is soluble in alcohol so a tincture is an appropriate method of storage and preservation.  Lavender water is a light, old-fashioned form of cologne made simply by infusing the flowers in water & then fixed with alcohol (vodka or denatured ).Lavender may also be infused into an oil  and preserved and used as a oil, soap, salve or other emollient lotion.

Many factors can influence the quality of your herbal preparations; lavender variety, soil type, weather, flowering stage when harvested, and cultivation practices.

  Uses of Lavender

  Medicinal-Lavender is very popular and can be found in many products in the local pharmacy.  It is definitely an asset in any medicine cabinet.  It has been used quite successfully as a sedative, for its relaxing and calming influence, by the aromatherapy  industry.  It can help to relieve insomnia, depression and tension headaches.  It has antiseptic and astringent properties and is used in soaps, deodorants and shampoos.  As a mild analgesic, it is great for muscular aches and pains and aids in cell rejuvenation so it is excellent in skin preparations.  It can be used to treat burns, sunburns, insect bites and stings.

  Insect Repellent –Adding lavender oil to the final rinse cycle of your laundry can, besides adding a lovely scent, aid in repelling moths and other household insects.  Try dried lavender in sachets in drawers, closets and hope chests.  Clothing must be clean and properly stored.  Lavender oil can also be brushed onto the interior of a cedar or pine chest to refresh the oils & boost its repellent integrity.

  Culinary Applications

    Herbes de Provence

3 Tbls. thyme

2 Tbls. summer savory

1 1/3 tsp. rosemary

½ tsp. each of sage, mint and fennel

¼ tsp. lavender

Crush before using.

  Lavender Shortbread

8 oz. (2 sticks) cold, sweet, unsalted butter

½ cup lavender sugar*(see recipe below)

2 cups flour

Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Combine butter and sugar in bowl and mix slowly for about 15 seconds.  Add flour and mix for 3-5 minutes, until dough comes together. (It will look dry just before it comes together).  Put dough on lightly floured surface and roll out to ¼” thickness.  Cut with a 3” cookie cutter.  Chill for 1 hour.  Line baking sheet with wax paper, place cookies so they are not touching on the pan.  Bake for about 45 minutes until firm but still white in color.   (Adapted from Stars Desserts by Emily Luchetti)

  Scented Sugar

Flower-scented sugars are easily made & can transform granulated sugar into a fragrant addition to cakes, cookies, custards, whipping cream & all sorts of sweets.  Choose sweet, aromatic flowers to flavor the sugar:  anise hyssop, lavender, lilac, rose, scented geraniums & sweet violets.

To prepare, use a clean pint jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Fill the jar 1/3 full with sugar, then scatter a small handful of flowers on top. Add sugar to 2/3 full; add another small handful of flowers.  Cover with sugar to fill the jar, leaving ½” space to lid.  Put on lid, shake jar and place on a shelf in a cool, dark place.  The sugar will be ready to use in 2-3 weeks, but will become more flavorful with age.  As you use this sugar, add more in its place.

Vanilla Sugar can easily be made by placing 2 cups of granulated sugar & 1 vanilla bean (cut into small pieces) in a processor.  Process until the bean is very finely minced.  Strain to remove any large pieces.  Store in an airtight container.  Use this sugar to flavor your favorite recipes.  Using this same technique you can add ¼ cup chopped crystallized ginger to 2 cups sugar to create Ginger Sugar.   (From Flowers in the Kitchen by Susan Belsinger)

  Confetti Butter

Depending on the season, try any unsprayed, edible blossoms from this list for this recipe.  Herb blossoms:  Chives, Thyme, Dill, Cicely, Lovage & Mints.  Flowers:  Tulip, Pansy or Violet, Dianthus, Chamomile, Honeysuckle, Nasturtium, Daylily, Roses, Lavender, Scented Geraniums, Bee Balm, Elderflower & Tuberous Begonia

Combine:

1 cup coarsely shredded edible flower blossoms (petals only)

1 lb. Softened butter, unsalted

Store wrapped tightly in the freezer for up to 3 months or in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

    Lavender Sorbet

1 cup sugar syrup*

4 fresh lavender heads, or 1 scant tsp. of culinary grade dried lavender

Juice of 1 lemon, strained

1 ½ cups cold water

 Pour 1 cup syrup into a pan, add the lavender flowers & bring to a boil.  Remove pan from heat, add the juice of ½ of the lemon, then cover & let cool.  Strain syrup to remove the lavender & add the cold water.  Taste & add the remaining lemon juice, if it seems too sweet.  Process in your ice cream/sorbet maker according to manufacturer’s directions.  To store, quickly scrape into plastic freezer containers, cover tightly.  Allow 10-15 minutes in the refrigerator to soften sufficiently before serving.

*To prepare a batch of sugar syrup, place 5 parts granulated sugar & 4 parts water in a saucepan.  Heat on medium to low & stir until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat & let cool.  Cover & refrigerate.  (From Frozen Desserts by Caroline Liddell & Robin Weir)

  Making a Lavender Wand

  1. Pick lavender in the morning after dew is dried.  With thread or rubber band, tie an odd number (start with 13) of fresh lavender stems securely together just below the blossoms.
  2. Hold blossoms upside down in your non-dominant hand (stems up).
  3. Carefully bend the stems down one by one, to form an umbrella shape.
  4. Secure the end of the ribbon (at least 3 yds long, ¼” wide) under thumb
  5. Begin weaving the free end of the ribbon in and out of the stems (over & under).  The 1st 2 rows are the most difficult, as the stems tend to flop over, cross & slip around.  Be patient!
  6. After 4 or 5 rows let go of the flowers & bend the stems down to form the handle.  If your weaving looks untidy, take a toothpick or crochet hook & smooth & tighten the ribbon, starting at the top & working down.  Be careful not to pull too tight or the ribbon will stain from the lavender stems.
  7. Continue weaving until all the blossoms are encased.
  8. Wind the remaining ribbon around the stem & pin to secure.  Let the wand dry for 2 weeks in a warm, dark, well-ventilated place.
  9. The stems will turn light brown & will shrink.  After the wand is dry trim the stems & tighten the ribbon with a crochet hook if necessary.  (Do this carefully, as the stems are quite brittle).  Wrap the remaining ribbon around the handle stems & secure with matching thread.  A bow may be added.  Viola!