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How to preserve lavender

Lavender has been used for centuries in medicine and cuisine. Whether grown as an annual or a perennial, if you love the scent after a fresh rain, capturing that essence for future use is a wonderful way to extend the enjoyment of your plant.

lavender in a basket on a table in front of a blue candle
Lavender Basket

The scent of lavender has several benefits, including its calming and soothing properties. Here are some of the potential benefits associated with the scent of lavender:

  • Relaxation and Stress Relief: Lavender is well-known for its calming aroma, which can help promote relaxation and reduce stress levels. Inhaling the scent of lavender has been shown to have a sedative effect, helping to induce a sense of calmness and tranquility.

  • Improved Sleep Quality: Lavender's scent is commonly used as a natural sleep aid. It has been found to promote better sleep quality, potentially reducing insomnia and improving overall sleep patterns. Diffusing lavender essential oil or placing lavender sachets near your bed can help create a relaxing environment for sleep.

  • Anxiety and Mood Management: The aroma of lavender has been linked to reduced anxiety and improved mood. It can help alleviate feelings of restlessness, nervousness, and agitation. Studies have shown that lavender scent has anxiolytic effects, contributing to a sense of well-being.

  • Headache Relief: Lavender's scent may provide relief from headaches and migraines. Inhaling lavender aroma or applying lavender oil to the temples has been reported to help reduce headache severity and promote relaxation.

  • Relaxation during Aromatherapy: Lavender is commonly used in aromatherapy practices to induce relaxation and create a peaceful atmosphere. The scent of lavender can be diffused, used in massage oils, or added to bathwater to enhance relaxation and overall well-being.

  • Improved Cognitive Function: Some research suggests that lavender scent may have positive effects on cognitive function. It has been found to improve concentration, focus, and mental clarity.

  • Mood Elevation: The pleasant aroma of lavender has a mood-elevating effect. It can help uplift spirits, reduce feelings of irritability or restlessness, and create a positive and calming atmosphere.

It's important to note that individual responses to scents can vary, and some people may have allergies or sensitivities to lavender. It's always advisable to test for any adverse reactions before using lavender products extensively. (We're gardeners, not medical professionals). Let's take a look at the most common ways to preserve lavender.

How to preserve lavender

Drying lavender is a common practice to preserve its fragrance and use it for various purposes, such as potpourri, sachets, or culinary applications. Here's a simple method to dry lavender:

  • Harvesting: Begin by harvesting lavender when the flowers are fully bloomed but before they start to fade. Choose a dry morning or early afternoon to harvest, as the essential oils will be at their peak. Cut the lavender stems just above the leaves, leaving a few inches of stem.

  • Bundling: Gather a small bunch of lavender stems, typically 20 to 30 stems, and tie them together with a string or rubber band. Ensure the stems are aligned at the base to form a neat bundle.

  • Hanging: Hang the lavender bundles upside down in a well-ventilated, dry, and dark area. You can use a cool, dark room, a closet, or a drying rack. Make sure the bundles are not exposed to direct sunlight, as it can cause fading and loss of fragrance.

  • Drying: Allow the lavender bundles to dry completely, which usually takes around two to four weeks. Check the bundles periodically to ensure there is no mold or moisture buildup. If you notice any signs of mold, discard the affected bundles.

  • Testing for Dryness: To check if the lavender is fully dried, gently crumble a flower bud in your hand. If it easily crumbles and feels dry, it is ready for storage. If it feels slightly soft or pliable, it needs more time to dry.

  • Removing Buds: Once the lavender is fully dried, remove the buds from the stems by gently rubbing them off. You can use your fingers or a clean sieve to separate the buds from the stems.

  • Storage: Store the dried lavender buds in an airtight container or a sealed bag. Keep the container in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and moisture. Properly dried lavender can retain its fragrance for several months or even longer.

Remember that different lavender varieties may have different drying times, and environmental conditions can also affect the drying process. Adjust the drying time accordingly based on your specific conditions.

lavender bundle in a flower basket
Lavender Bundle

Culinary uses for lavender

Lavender can be used in cooking and adds a unique floral and herbal flavor to various dishes. However, it's important to use culinary-grade lavender specifically labeled for culinary use, as some lavender varieties may have been treated with pesticides or not suitable for consumption. Or if you grow your own, make sure to wash it properly and identify the type that is safe to eat!

Here are a few ways lavender can be used in cooking:

  • Infusions and Syrups: Lavender can be infused into liquids such as milk, cream, or syrup to add flavour. For example, lavender-infused milk or cream can be used in custards, ice creams, or hot beverages like lattes. Lavender syrup can be used to sweeten drinks, drizzle over desserts, or as a flavouring in cocktails.

  • Baking: Lavender can be added to baked goods such as cookies, cakes, scones, and bread. It pairs well with lemon, honey, and berries. Use it sparingly, as the flavour can be potent. Ground dried lavender buds or culinary lavender buds can be incorporated into the batter or sprinkled on top as a garnish.

  • Seasoning Savoury Dishes: Lavender can be used as a seasoning in savoury dishes, particularly in Mediterranean and French cuisine. It adds a subtle floral note to dishes like roasted meats, stews, soups, and marinades. Use it sparingly, as the flavour can be overpowering if too much is added.

  • Herbal Blends: Lavender can be used in herbal blends and spice rubs to enhance the flavour profile. It can be combined with other herbs like thyme, rosemary, or sage to create aromatic blends for seasoning meat, poultry, or vegetables.

When using lavender in cooking, start with small amounts and gradually increase as per your taste preference. It's important not to overuse lavender, as its flavour can become overwhelming. Experimentation and balancing with other complementary flavours will help you create delightful dishes with a touch of lavender's unique aroma and taste.

Do you use lavender in cooking? Share your thoughts with us in the comments or on social media.

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