I love to use lavender for it's aromatherapy properties. It's know to help induce sleep, calm anxiety, reduce stress and soothe headaches. I keep some lavender flowers in a sachet in my pillowcase to help me fall asleep at night. Some of us are more sensitive to aromatherapy and it knocks me right out! Both the flowers and leaves have that beautiful scent, but if you plan on using them in cooking make sure your lavender has not been sprayed with pesticides. Lavender can be brewed into a tea which is great for digestive issues like nausea. Fresh lavender leaves can be used in pork or lamb dishes instead of rosemary. Lavender can also be used for many different skin ailments.
Lavender is very simple to harvest and dry you just have to keep a few things in mind.
- Always harvest your lavender on a dry day after the morning dew has burned off.
- Harvest lavender before the florets are fully open.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the stalks.
- Cut about 2" above where the woody part ends and turns green. Cutting too low can injure the plant.
(This picture shows a 1 1/2 year old plant. This is it's first year producing flowers. As it gets older it will flower more uniformly. I chose this plant for the photos because if you're looking for info on harvesting lavender, you probably have a young plant. Unless you got lucky and someone gave you an older plant in which case, woohoo...go you!)
Once dry, use your fingers to slide the flowers off the stems the store in a jar. I use Ball Herb Jars for mine, but that's because I just love the shaker top! If you have a lot of lavender you can get Ball herb lids for large sized ball jars. After the flowers are done I then do the same thing, sliding my fingers up the stems to remove the leaves and store these also but in a different jar. The leaves have the same scent as the flowers and I use them in many of the same ways. I leave the jar lids open for a few days just in case there is any moisture left in them, then close and store in a cool dry place out of sunlight. Here's a post on How To Store Dried Herbs if you want more information on storage.
I keep the dried stems to throw on the campfire for an amazing smell, it seems to keep the mosquito's at bay too. You can also use larger dried lavender stems as kabob skewers if you want to add a subtle taste of lavender to your dinner! Or just throw them on the coals when grilling chicken or fish for a light smoky lavender flavor.
Lavender is difficult to start from seed, but once established it will produce ample lavender blossoms for years! There are so many wonderful things to make with my dried lavender, I just don't know what to make first!
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