Enjoying Lavender Festivals

Lavender Festival

Linda at Lavender Fest, copyright Donald Byington 2007

Lavender festivals are popping up everywhere. Travel through farm country and you can spot the vast washes of purplish-blue from blooming lavender crops. Open up your car windows to be bathed in the calming scent. Harvest season has arrived.

Years ago I visited Sequim, Washington for their Lavender Festival. In a state known for drenching rains, the area of Sequim gets an unusual amount of sun making it a perfect microcosm for growing lavender. They have even earned the recognition of “Lavender Capital of North America.” They grow vast amounts of lavender.

This is where I could tell you about the aromatherapeutic wonders of lavender, saying it is good for pain reduction, anxiety, skin disorders, relaxation, burns, inflamed conditions, insomnia, headaches, and that it is antibacterial, antiseptic, and safe for children. Instead I will share with you the different varieties of lavender often seen at lavender farms.

The most familiar type is English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). “A native of the Mediterranean region, English lavender earned its common name because it grows well in the English climate. The grey-green leaves are scented. … It’s also a favorite culinary lavender.” This is the type of lavender usually sold as Lavender Essential Oil, with alternate Latin names of Lavandula officinalis and Lavandula vera.

Lavandins (Lavandula x intermedia) are hybrids made by crossing spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia) with English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). They are grown because they produce large-flowered plants with higher distillation yields. These hybrids have an odor similar to Lavandula angustifolia but with a harsher note due to the camphor inherited from the spike lavender. That camphor also makes lavandins less relaxing and sweet smelling, so check the latin name and choose according to the desired effect.

Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechus) has a deep color that “makes it a beautiful addition to the landscape and explains why this group of lavender is often called the Butterfly Lavenders. … (It) has a pinecone shaped head that has a eucalyptus fragrance.” The essential oil from this variety is not as common in aromatherapy, but it does have antimicrobial and antifungal properties.

Visiting a lavender farm is a wonderful summer experience. In July I try to see different ones, regardless of the state or country I am in. I collect plants for my garden, but also enjoy culinary specialties such as this drink served in Sequim:
Lavender Margaritas from Purple Haze Lavender
3/4 – 1 cup tequila
1/3 – 1/2 cup blue curaçao or other orange flavor liqueur
3/4 – 1 cup canned coconut milk
1/4 – 1/3 cup lime juice
1 1/2 – 2 cups frozen unsweetened raspberries
1 1/2 – 2 cups frozen unsweetened blueberries
3-4 ice cubes
1 t. lavender
In a blender, combine the tequila, curaçao, coconut milk and lime juice. Cover and turn to high speed, then gradually add berries and ice. Whirl until smooth and slushy. Pour into glasses. You can rub glass rims with lime and dip the rim in lavender sugar.

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