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G - 44 : The surprising Qualities of Lavender

Lavender Field near the Village of Sault - at the Back is Mont Ventoux, the biker challenge

One of the pleasures in life is spraying lavender water on your bedlinen. The smell is soothing, fresh and relaxing. It will put you to sleep quickly. Some people also use lavender water to iron. Whether on bedlinen or shirts, it is a beautiful, unique smell. It is no wonder that it found its way into many fragrances. Due to its antibacterial – antimicrobial properties, lavender also kills the bacteria that cause nasty smells.

Am a total Fan of using Lavender Water on Linen - it is like permanent Freshness

Lavender water is easy to make. You do not need to buy it. Take 100 ml of distilled water, add 33 ml of vodka and 10 drops o lavender oil. Shake and fill into a spray bottle. It is that easy.

Making a Bottle of Lavender Water takes about 5 Minutes time

Could not continue this blog without talking about the Provence’s main contribution to the empire of smell. Lavender is everywhere. You smell it in the weekly farmers’ markets, many soaps are colored in its light purple, table clothes are printed in yellow and purple, everywhere there are photos of blooming lavender fields. Informally, it even replaced the colors of Provence’s coat of arms. The once red strips on golden ground have now been replaced by purple strips. Of course, only in marketing material.

Took this Photo in a Lavender Farm near Soult

Distilling lavender is not that difficult either. Decided to plant lavender in my garden in the Cevennes to make my own lavender oil. The idea is to use our excess olive oil to make lavender soap. We have all in the garden. The olive oil, the olive ash and the lavender. Will have to buy my own distillation kit but it is not expensive. The sturdiest cost just EUR 200.

Freshly cut Lavender is lowered into a large Boiling Kettle for Distillation in Soult

Lavender is cut when blooming and full of aromatic essences. The essential oil though is in the bud, not in the flower. A 20-liter distillation kettle needs about 6 kg of freshly cut lavender. Then fill with tap water and heat the kettle to boiling point. The steam then extracts the lavender oil. You get about 2% essential oil from each batch. The waste water can be used as lavender water – there is so much that you can't to keep it all.

After the Distillation is completed - takes 30 min - the old Lavender is removed & replaced

There are more than 40 different types of lavender plants. They can be found all over the world. Will not have the time to cover them all – Wikipedia has an excellent summary. My focus is on the variety that grows in the Provence. There are two different types. The wild lavender in the mountains and the cultivated lavandin on the fields. What we see on the scenic photos is mostly lavandin.

Wild Lavender only grows in the mountainous Region East of Mont Ventoux (dark purple)

A few centuries ago the wild lavender was most precious. It yielded more oil and the oil had a stronger flavor. The first perfumes in Grasse were made from wild lavender. But through crossbreeding the differences were eliminated. Today, it is difficult to say what is what. Most people do not even know that there are two types of lavender. My plants in my garden are technically lavandin but even my gardener calls them lavender.

The Lavandin planted this March - the plant loves rocky and sandy soils - we have plenty!

In the traditional pharmacology, lavender belongs with chamomile and marjoram to the category of plants which have a calming effect. Two drops of lavender oil on your neck have the desired effect. Many people believe that lavender oil stimulates the immune system, boost your mood, improves your sleep and fights stress symptoms. It is widely sold as a therapeutic agent. The American Health Authorities recognize it safe for the intended use but state clearly “these uses have no clinical benefit.” There were a number of clinical studies but so far none has been conclusive. What we now know is that swallowing lavender oil leads to poisoning. For an adult, 5 ml cause toxic reactions. For a child, it is about half.

A typical Lavandin Field near Soult - the Buds are fully developed and ready for Harbest

Be it as it may, lavender is a wonderful plant. In smaller doses, it is totally safe for use in cooking. In America, it is often mixed into Herbes de Provence. You can buy “Miel de Lavande” everywhere in the Provence. Lavender gives the honey a nice edge. I use it in my desert “Figs in Honey” where I boil honey with the juice of one lemon and two stalks of lavender, then add the sliced figs for a minute and serve with vanilla ice cream. It is totally yummy. Most guests notice the flavor of lavender but are unable to say what it is.

Many Lavender Farmers are also beekeepers and

sell delicious Lavender Honey

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