By Carol Tannenbaum
The Willamette Valley is home to many lavender farms because our warm dry summers support the growing needs of this versatile perennial plant–native to the Mediterranean. Each spring lavender farmers eagerly await new green shoots that signal the heady bloom to follow. The two most popular varieties on the lavender farm as well as in the home garden are English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and a hybrid variety (Lavandula X intermedia) (a natural cross between L. angustifolia and L. latifolia) often referred to as intermedia or lavandin. The English varieties typically start blooming in early June with the lavandins to follow by early July.
Lavender has a myriad of uses around the home. Its essential oil is widely used as a natural antiseptic, as a relief for insomnia or migraine headaches, as an insect repellant or a refreshing scent for skin care products and the list goes on. One use that surprises many is to incorporate lavender in their cooking. In recent years many cook books devoted to lavender’s use as a culinary herb have been published. In 2004 Sharon Shipley wrote “the Lavender Cookbook” and expounded on how lavender can enliven food with its unique and enticing flavor. Shipley prefers to use a mild lavandin named ‘Provence’ in all her recipes both sweet and savory while Nancy Baggett who wrote “The Art of Cooking with Lavender” in 2016 asserts that only English lavenders are mild enough to use in cooking. But it’s really about pleasing your own palate.
For some palates, a mild lavandin like ‘Provence’ may be a better choice for a savory dish while the sweeter English cultivars may best complement cookies, cakes and scones. Lavender pairs well with cream, vanilla, chocolate, citrus, and almond flavors. Fruits like peaches and apricots, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries, figs, cherries and cranberries all have a strong flavor affinity with lavender. Herbs and spices that complement lavender are chamomile, mint, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, allspice, black and pink pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, curry powder and ginger. Just think of your favorite recipes that rely on these herbs and spices and experiment with adding lavender for a unique flavor enhancement. Or substitute the rosemary or thyme in a recipe with lavender. But remember that lavender must be used in moderation—less is more. Lightly sprinkle lavender buds on buttered pasta, grilled salmon or chicken, and roast pork. It is especially good with smoked meats and fish. Potatoes, tomatoes, chick peas and white beans all benefit from lavender seasoning. Try seasoning hummus with lavender for a taste treat.
There are many lavender infused products available for culinary exploration including:
• Lavender flavored jams & preserves
• Syrups & honey
• Chocolate, sauces & cookies
• Teas, cocoa, lemonade, spirits
Both fresh and dried lavender buds can be used directly in food preparation. Or one may start with making your own infused tea or syrup. For the tea steep ¼ cup dried lavender buds or 1 cup of fresh lavender spikes in 2 cups of water (heated just to boil) for 15 minutes. This strained tea can then be used in recipes. For example the cooled water could be used as diluent in making lemonade from a 16oz frozen lemonade container. For an infused lavender syrup, dissolve 2 cups sugar in 2 cups lightly boiling water. Remove from heat and stir in one cup of fresh lavender spikes or 2-2 ½ tablespoons of dried lavender buds to taste and let sit for one to six hours until desired taste is reached. Strain and store the syrup in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to three months.
Carol owns McKenzie River Lavender Farm
During lavender season McKenzie River Lavender hosts a Lavender Festival in early July. This year the event is July 13-15, 10am to 5pm each day. Our specialty lavender products include fresh bouquets of ‘Grosso’ lavender, pure ‘Grosso’ essential oil and linen spray, unique lavender crafts, soaps, lotions and more. During the Oregon Lavender Farm tour, our country bazaar showcases all things lavender as well as creations of local artisans. Plant starts and U-Pick lavender are also available. Enjoy an experience for the family including music, food and refreshments. Directions: Exit I-5 at Springfield on Hwy 126 East to milepost 15.5.
WAYWARD WINDS LAVENDER FARM
Wayward Winds Lavender offers a beautiful location with rustic charm, abundant lavender, and a huge selection of lavender goods. Vintage furniture scattered about the property welcomes you to sit and stay awhile. Some days you may be lucky enough to catch them distilling lavender essential oil on site. Open daily in July from 10-5. Other times by appointment.
The owners of Wayward Winds Lavender have been creating lavender products since before the turn of the century. You’ll find the usual assortment of bath and body products, plus some you may not be familiar with. For the last several years they have been concentrating on culinary uses of lavender. This has resulted in the creation of a wide array of culinary lavender products. Syrups for cocktails and other drinks, including many blended flavors are among their most popular items. Nine tea blends with lavender are available plus many spice blends. Their newest product is a lavender white chocolate scone mix that is exceptionally good. Lavender honeys, sugars, vinegar, and more are also available.
Row upon row of the most fragrant lavender in existence is grown in abundance at Wayward Winds. Several varieties are available for u pick. Bouquets can be kept for a time as fresh flowers and then dried. Dried bouquets and lavender buds will remain fragrant for years as a potpourri or in a sachet. Some varieties are suitable for culinary use. It’s fun to experiment with all potential uses for lavender. You may also enjoy crafting a wreath or lavender wands from your bouquets.
If you are dreaming of your own lavender filled garden, or even a lavender field, plants are also available at Wayward Winds. An assortment of popular varieties will be available at the farm during the month of July. Lavender loves a sunny site with good drainage. Flower colors are not limited to purples. Shades of pinks, whites, and blues are also common. With mature plant sizes ranging from 18” – 36” plus, there are plants for nearly any size garden. Wholesale orders are taken for larger scale spring or fall planting.
The Lavender + Vintage Festival takes place at Wayward Winds July 13,14,15 of 2018. In addition to the lavender goods, some friends will be on the farm offering handcrafted items and vintage goods. If you are a fan of antique, vintage, or just fun and funky stuff – don’t miss this unique weekend of fun.
Wayward Winds Lavender is open daily in July, 10-5. Other times by appointment.
More about Wayward Winds Lavender Here
THE WILLAMETTE VALLEY LAVENDER FESTIVAL
The Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg hosts the 2018 Willamette Valley Lavender Festival. A celebration of lavender and art. This family friendly event features everything lavender you can imagine. And some things you probably haven’t. Enjoy the juried art and craft booths, the plein air art show, live music, and visit area lavender farms.
Over 100 artists will display original paintings done en plein air during the Oregon Lavender Paint Out. The Paint Out takes place in the beautiful lavender fields of Oregon in the weeks prior to the Show. The Paint Out and Art Show attract both amateur and professional artists from around the Northwest and beyond. Glass, jewelry, pottery, woodcraft, and other original art are also in the line-up. And of course, many lavender products will be featured from crafters and lavender farms.
The Festival has stellar music and other activities for your enjoyment. Lavender flavored beer will be available, along with an assortment of foods from several vendors. Many of the of the food and beverage vendors will be featuring lavender fare along with their usual offerings.
An area will be available for kids to create artwork of their own at the Festival. Resulting artwork may be entered in the on site Youth Art Contest. Materials are provided and ribbons will be awarded in multiple categories.
Other activities taking place at the Festival include a lavender crafting area where you can make your own lavender wand, on going essential oil distillation demonstrations, and a showcase of essential oils. Festival attendees will have the opportunity to experience the various oils for themselves and vote for their own favorite. Festival goods such as t shirts and mugs will be available. As will lavender plants and fresh cut bouquets.
There are several nearby lavender farms we encourage you to visit after attending the Festival. Each one has something different to offer. U pick lavender, farm stores, and beautiful settings to end your day. Maps will be available.
Festival Dates are July 14, 10-6 and July 15, 10-5.
MORE INFORMATION: wvlavenderfestival.org
The Chehalem Cultural Center is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to inspire and enrich lives by connecting community and culture.
For more information visit