Lavender is a plant with an ancient history that has held a multitude of uses, from helping to mummify Egyptian kings, to being worn on the wrist in an effort to help prevent the Black Plague during the medieval period. During Roman times, lavender was used in purifying baths. In fact, the name “lavender” comes from the Latin “lavare,” which means “to wash.”
In today’s world, we seem to have forgotten lavender and all its uses. The lavender plant isn’t just nice to view in your garden bed, it’s also an amazing crop that can be used for a host of reasons. Lavender farms have been popping up all over Colorado within the last decade, and there are so many reasons why. If you have ever considered planting your own lavender, also consider harvesting it. Something as simple as drying a small bunch and placing it in a vase in your bathroom can provide both beauty, the natural calming effect, and a beautiful aroma.
Lavender comes in a few different species, but traditional lavender is the English lavender that adorned the gardens of nobles and royalty. It has narrow leaves and can have bright purple or more of a lavender purple flower. Traditional English Lavender is what most people plant. It’s hardy and can thrive in zones 5 through 9. I live in zone 5, in Colorado. It does fantastically well in my region.
Uses For Lavender:
Decorative – like a lavender wreath, dried lavender bunch or even a small lavender plant sitting in your window sill
Soaps and Bath Products – Like shampoos, lotions, bath salts, etc.
Food – there are a host of recipes you can throw lavender into.
Lavender Oil – relieves stress and anxiety.
Aroma therapy – fresh lavender provides a beautiful scent.
There are many other ways to use lavender which I haven’t mentioned, but let’s get into the nitty gritty of lavender harvesting.
The first thing you want to do is decide what you want to use your lavender for, as there are different times to harvest depending on how it will be used. As each stage of the lavender flowering occurs, it gives off a slightly different aroma. The softest aroma usually coming in the very beginning, as the flower begins to bloom, while the strongest aroma is in full bloom. Once the blooms begin to die off, the scent will dissipate. The best approach is to cut it in different stages and decide which aroma you prefer.
Many times, when lavender is just blooming, or when the first corolla opens, the lavender is used for fresh display (as it will bloom when you place it in water) or in soaps and bath products. This is also the time to harvest is you want to use it in your tea or to use in a recipe.
Once the majority of the corollas are open, it is then the best time to harvest for drying displayed bunches or wreath making. I chose to harvest for drying and displaying purposes, so I harvested when the plant was in full bloom.
Step 1: Start by cutting the lavender stems as low as possible. The more stem you cut, the more stem you have to work with once your lavender has dried. Pro Tip: you don’t have to worry about being too aggressive with the plant. Lavender is extremely hardy and can take a beating.
Step 2: Cut about as much as can fit in your hand, then tie it off with some twine or a rubber band. The bunches can be as big or as little as you prefer.
Step 3: Hang to dry in a warm, dry area that does not get sunshine. Sunshine will take away the fragrance of the lavender. The lavender will need somewhere around 2-4 weeks of drying in order to make sure that all the stalks have dried all the way through.
Step 4: Use in whatever ways you see fit. Decorate your bathroom, make a beautiful wreath or cook some lavender tea bread (recipe below.) Lavender provides a host of uses. If you are using for soaps, teas, or cooking, you will need to remove the corollas from the stalk. This will provide the most fragrance and flavor.
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Take a moment to consider all the uses that lavender provides. Dry some lavender and adorn your home with it. Or, plant a bush in your backyard and watch it thrive. Honey bees love it, and you don’t have to do a ton of work to keep it happy. What have you used lavender for? Leave a comment and let me know!
Interested in some amazing Lavender Tea Bread? Check out the recipe below:
Lavender Tea Bread
PREP TIME: 10 minutes
COOK TIME: 50 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 1 hour
3/4 cup milk
3 Tbsp. fresh lavender, chopped (or 2 Tbsp. dried)
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan. I actually line my loaf pans with parchment paper because it just makes my life easier.
Combine the lavender milk in a small pan and warm over medium heat.
Heat to a simmer, remove from heat, and then allow it to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth.
Beat egg into the mixture until the mixture is light and fluffy, then add the vanilla.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt, then stir into the creamed butter and sugar mixture alternately with the milk and lavender until just blended.
Pour into your prepared pan.
Bake 45-50 minutes in the preheated oven. I am at high altitude, so I leave it in a bit longer than directed (about 5ish minutes)
To prepare glaze, combine the powdered sugar and remaining ingredients.
Pour over when the cake is hot. Cool in pan on a wire rack until cool enough to remove from pan, about 25 minutes then remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.