I feel such a sense of satisfaction from gathering my own lavender. It is the same feeling I get from making a beautiful pot of chicken bone broth, culturing yogurt, or creating a tooth powder recipe.
It is learning to be self-sufficient and resourceful.
Susy from Chiot’s Run put out the question wondering if she was an asset or a liability to her community if hard times hit and how we felt it about ourselves. It really hit home for me.
I grew up as a typical suburban American with no discernible skills. I am now learning to be an asset. What a wonderful feeling it is to be useful.
Many of us have lavender as part of our decorative landscape. I haven’t managed to do anything with it until this year, though I put it on the to do list a few years ago. Beyond being a drought-tolerant and textural part of your garden, it can be part of the kitchen, medicine cabinet, and makes a wonderful laundry companion.
The actual harvesting is quite simple. Lavender usually extends its flowering stems far out from the body of the plant. You can either harvest while the flowers are still in buds or fully bloomed.
I prefer when the flower is just starting to peek out of the bud and shows a purple shadow of color to come. This is when they hold the most essential oils.
Things you will need: gardening shears, large container
You can see from the picture below that I got very fancy with my container. I used a too-small discarded plastic pot that Katie found in the garage. I should probably get a pretty gathering basket for harvesting herbs and vegetables. Mmmmm pretty baskets.
Gather a small handful of stems in your fist and cut them below the point at which you are holding them. This should bring your scissors close to the main body of the plant. It also helps to reshape your lavender bush if you haven’t, ahem, pruned it regularly.
Continue cutting bunches until most of the flower stems have been removed and piled into your container of choice. I like to leave the stragglers for the bees and the poor little plant that put forth all the effort to grow them in the first place.
Bring your harvest inside – or into a protected outdoor space – and spread it out on a flat surface. You could alternately hang in bunches upside down to fully dry. Be sure the stems are resting on a surface that the drying foliage will not damage.
It is possible to remove the flowers immediately, but I can tell you that the job is harder and takes longer to do when they are still fresh. We tried a bit of both.
Once dry, you can husk your lavender stems by holding a stem in one hand and running your fingers from the top to the bottom with the forefinger and thumb of the other hand. If they don’t all come off this way, just pull off the stubborn ones.
From my single lavender plant, I gathered about 10 ounces of buds and flowers. I am also going to keep the stems to infuse in oil and add to sachets.
This process can be done 2-3 times each growing season for those of us in the north.
- Use it in the kitchen – Herbes de Provence, lavender lemonade, teas, baked goods, jams, jellies, and honeys. Katie also enjoyed eating them straight while we husked them. I love childhood.
- Make sachets – in your unmentionables drawer, with stored clothes to deter moths and musty smells, for the dryer. I can’t wait to add them to the dryer. After my sheets have been hanging in the sun all day, I throw them in the dryer for a few minutes to soften them and knock off any dust and pollen. The fresh scent of sun and lavender after a relaxing bedtime yoga routine should make for the ultimate in blissful slumber.
- Personal care products – add the buds to a warm bath, make lavender oil for relaxation and medicinal care (lavender is anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory so great for skin abrasions and bug bites), or lavender-infused raw whipped shea butter for a lovely nighttime lotion