Fresh Picked Lavender 101

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In the fall you go apple picking, in the summer you go Lavender picking. Okay no, not really. During the summer most people go pick strawberries, blueberries, or basically any type of berry. However, the summer is also the time to pick lavender! Now there aren’t lavender fields in every town but they also aren’t as scarce as one might think. Many regions have lavender festivals and some local places have a ‘U-Pick’ time period. Luckily, there is a lavender farm about ten minutes from my home so when they announced they were hosting another picking event I was ready to buy my ticket!

Many people think lavender is just a great scent for things like perfume, laundry detergent, or lotion. But lavender is so much more than a scent that smells good. The essential oils extracted from lavender are known to have very calming affects on people. Lavender also, surprisingly, tastes really good and refreshing. Drinks, sweets, even meat-it has a great flavor and can be used in so many different ways.

So, with that being said, after you’ve picked your lavender (or bought the pre-picked bundles; no judgment) you might be wondering what the heck to do with it. Well I’ve laid out how to care for your fresh lavender, some arts and crafts ideas, and some of my favorite lavender recipes.

Caring for your lavender

            Basically it comes down to if you want to keep your lavender fresh or if you want to dry it. If you want your lavender fresh you’ll want to keep it in a small amount of water, change the water DAILY, and the lavender should stay fresh for 1-2 weeks. If you’re wanting to dry your lavender (best for crafts and culinary) it’s really quite simple. Your bundle should already be tied in a rubber band. Next step is to hang your bundle upside down in a dark space. Personally, I used my closet and tied a ribbon to the rubber band and tied the ribbon to a hanger towards the bottom of my closet. Since what you’re essentially drying out is the buds, you’ll want to keep a towel under the bundle to catch the buds that fall. After you leave the bundle this way for 10-14 days. Now depending on what exactly you want to do with your lavender will depend on what to do next. If you want to use your lavender for cooking then you will need to gently pick all the buds off and keep them in a brown or dark blue glass container. As long as you keep the buds in the container in a dry/dark place they should be good for 5-10 years! Just put them in a grinder when you plan on using them.

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Arts & Crafts

            One of my favorite seasonal decorations is a good ole wreath. Buying a fancy wreath with all the bells and whistles can be some serious $$$ so I enjoy making my own with what I have/what’s on sale. About a year ago I got a plain vine wreath at Trader Joe’s for $3.99 in October. I had used it as just a plain wreath for Fall-but with all my new lavender…I thought I would fix it up. Personally, I waited until it was dried out before I used it but basically I just took the dried lavender (stems and all) and worked them through the vines of the wreath. Don’t be afraid to be generous, the more lavender you add the better! The great thing about this wreath is that every time I walk in the door I get a big whiff of lavender and it is the perfect way to come home after a long day.

Another super easy craft idea is making sachets out of your lavender. Just take the dry buds off the stems and put them in a cotton drawstring bag. These are so easy to make and really just allow the fragrance from the lavender to keep a space smelling great. These are great for putting in your car, your dresser drawers, or even in your linen closet!

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Recipes

            Everything from sweets to drinks, you name it and there is a lavender recipe for it. Below I’ve listed a variety of some of my favorite lavender recipes to try out!

Lavender Martini

¼ cup Lavender Syrup (listed below)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 lemon peels

¼ cup of vodka

1/3 cup of champagne

Pour lavender syrup, lemon juice, and vodka in a shaker and shake well. Distribute between two martini glasses. Top each glass with champagne and a lemon peel!

Lavender Simple Syrup: Boil 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and slowly stir in 2 tablespoons of dried culinary lavender buds and 1 small strip of lemon zest. Steep for about twenty minutes and strain the contents into a small container with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate!

Chocolate Lavender Brownies

1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender buds

3 cups sugar

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cups + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder

3 sticks unsalted butter

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and butter a 13 x 9 inch baking dish.

Place lavender buds and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a grinder and finely grind the mixture. Put the lavender mixture in a large bowl and add flour, cocoa, salt, espresso/coffee powder, and the remaining sugar. Mix well.

In a separate bowl, soften butter until almost melted. Whisk in eggs and vanilla.

Make a well opening in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix well using a wooden spoon and add in the nuts if using. Pour mixture into the baking dish and smooth out. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out of the center mostly clean.

 

Lavender Honey Marinade

½ cup honey

¼ cup dried culinary lavender buds (finely ground in a spice grinder)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon fresh tangerine juice

2 tablespoons minced garlic

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl mix together the honey, lavender, vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, tangerine juice, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

In a gallon sized Ziploc bag, put chicken or shrimp. Pour marinade in Ziploc bag, making sure to push all the air out before closing completely. Make sure the marinade is distributed evenly over the meat, and place refrigerate for up to 4 hours. (The longer you refrigerate, the more the marinade will be absorbed into the meat) Remove meat from bag and grill or bake. Pour remaining marinade from bag on top of meat halfway through cooking to ensure extra flavor.

 

 

 

 

 


Why I Still Call my Hometown, Home

 

“Where are you from?” It’s a common question you’re bound to get asked at some point in your lifetime. You’re asked it your freshman year at college, you’re asked it the first day at your new job, and your asked it when you are off on vacation and meet someone new for the first time.

The question I now have for you is: What do you say?

As someone who moved away after I graduated from college it’s very tempting to want to call my new place “home.” The city has so much life, so much art and things to do and amazing food. It’s a city known for being a great place to live…but that’s the thing. It’s the place where I live-but it’s still not my home.

Growing up I almost felt like Belle in Beauty and the Beast. What else was out there? What more could I see and do? I wanted better food, fancier affairs, and more to see. I have that now, but I find myself more than ever missing my hometown.

With all that being said and done, I’ve mustered up 8 reasons as to why I still call my hometown home.

  1. Back roads

I’m telling you right now that I can get anywhere in my hometown in fifteen minutes or less, and I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket (in my hometown…) No “hoping” onto 285, 385, 485 or any interstate or highway period. Just knowing where I’m going and five different routes to get there. It’s that back road life, baby.

  1. Comfort Food

I’ve eaten beignets in New Orleans and pizza in New York and I’ve loved every scrumptious bite. But here’s the thing-there’s still nothing like the food you get when you are home. It’s the food of your childhood and the food you ate before prom and the food you ate with your best friends. It’s just simply food that brings you comfort. Like seriously, even the Chick-fil-A tastes better when I’m home.

  1. Memory Lane

There’s just something about being somewhere that holds memories for you. Your hometown is where you met your best friends, had your first kiss, your first heartbreak, and held Saturday yard sales with your friends when you were too lazy to get a job. (Guilty!) Every corner of town holds a special memory, and serves as one giant scrapbook.

  1. Familiar Faces

Yes, it’s exciting to meet new people and expand your horizons. However, I would be lying if I didn’t love going to a restaurant and running into people I know when I’m home. Everyone loves to feel like a big fish in a small pond every now and again.

  1. The Rumor Mill

We live in the south, gossip is inevitable and it’s so much more exciting hearing about what’s going on in your hometown rather than hearing about complete strangers. Not saying everything is about he said she said, but even the little changes throughout the town. For example, my hometown is getting a sushi restaurant downtown, FINALLY! Pretty sure that article had over 5,000 shares on Facebook.

  1. Family

If you are lucky like me, your family lived in your hometown before you were born and they still live there even after you’ve moved away. Having family somewhere ensures a connection to that place, and it’s always nice to have a place to stay when your home.

  1. Alma Mater

Okay so my hometown definitely isn’t a ‘College Town’, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a college in our town. I actually attended a private university that is nestled right by downtown. That means that I attended pre-school through my four years of college all within ten miles.

  1. Where the Heart Is

Through young love and family loss-your hometown is where your heart is. It’s where you conquer your fears and find your strength. It’s drenched in your tears and forever echoes with the laughter from your childhood. Your home is where you find yourself, and sometimes its good to be able to go back to that.

Traveling is what I love to do. I love seeing new places and meeting new people every chance I get. Overall, I’m glad that I moved out of my hometown. It’s what I needed to do for me in order to grow into the person I needed to be. Even with all that said-my hometown will always be the place that I am proud to call home.