Mmmm, it smells so good! My English lavender is in bloom now with its beautiful, fragrant purple buds and I am determined to harvest at its peak this year and in the spirit of keeping it simple and easy, below is a quick guide on picking, pruning and preserving your lavender.
Prime time for picking lavender is very soon after the flowers come out while they are still tightly formed. Picking while the flowers are still tight buds will give you the most concentrated flavor and aroma though I admit I sometimes wait a bit too long to harvest because lavender in bloom is one of my favorite garden flowers but really it is by far the best to harvest when the flowers are still young. The best time of the day to pick them is in the mid morning just after the dew has dried off which is when the oils are the most concentrated.
Lavender does very well with pruning and if you prune it after flowering in spring (if it is the spring-flowering type eg. English) then you will likely get another flush of blooms in late summer or early fall. For later blooming types (French or Spanish) it is still important to prune after flowering to maintain a compact full bush and extend the life of your plant by minimizing each years woody growth. A general rule of thumb is to clip off 1/3 of the new growth but you can prune more as long as you only prune above where there is some green leaves growing.
So, what should you do once you’ve harvested your flowers?
- Dry Them: Using your dehydrator or on very low in your oven. Once completely dried, they will keep in a sealed container for a long time although probably best within 6 months to 1 year. This is great for potpourri, to use in the below recipes once lavender season has passed and adding into baking, bath salts or other recipes. Here is a link to the dehydrator that I use: Hamilton-Beach 32100C Food Dehydrator
- Lavender Extract: Ultra simple, just stuff clean fresh (or you can use dried) flowers into a sterile mason jar, pour vodka over to cover and store in fridge place for 2 weeks flipping jar over every day or two. If using fresh lavender, you must refrigerate it while steeping and strain it out so that it doesn’t go bad, if using dried, you don’t need to store it in the fridge and can let it steep longer if you like.
- Lavender Syrup: For my recipe I used 3 cups sugar, 1 1/2 c water and 6 tbsp fresh lavender flowers. Heat on medium until boiling and then turn down and simmer 10 more minutes. Let cool slightly and then strain into sterile mason jars or other glass bottles and refrigerate. Strained well, this will keep a couple of months in your refrigerator. This is crazy good and is great in alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks alike as well as in baking (shortbread, cheesecake…), ice cream and more. For a fresh take on the classic Champagne cocktail using this syrup, try my Lavender french 75 and for a non-alcoholic treat check out my girl Jenna’s Lavender Latte Recipe over on her health and wellness blog, The Nourished Vibe-Yummm!
If you have lavender growing in your garden, go take a look and try harvesting some when it is flowering. It is easy and rewarding, you and your house will smell fabulous!
PS. If you want to preserve some but want something even more simple, just tie a bundle up and hang it upside down in a dry well ventilated area and voila!