Lavender Lustfest

This past weekend was the annual Oregon Lavender Festival and Tour. Admittedly, I have been under the spell of lavender since my first trip to the Mediterranean when I first experienced the dazzling fields of lavender and the heady passion it evokes.
It’s a bit of paradaox – this zeal that lavender generates – because lavender is most known as a calming restorative. I have no idea how a cat feels when it’s under the influence of catnip, but I suspect it must be something similar to the affect that lavender has on me. One whiff of that fabulous ethereal scent – my senses sharpen and I’m lightheaded all at the same time. Bam! Right between the eyes, I am blissfully transported. So, why wouldn’t I want more of that?
Judging from the farms and cottage industries that are springing up all over the state, lavender is becoming big business in Oregon. There are about 25 sites – each catering to their particular locale and clientele. Who knew? Some are nursery based selling as many as 100 different varieties; then there are lavender u-picks, production tours, gift shops, workshops – even wedding and event venues for up to 500.

As in France, lavender and wine seem to make good neighborly partners in Oregon. Many of our lavender growers have discovered the financial benefits of this association and market themselves as such. Of course, artists are attracted to this environment, too; so by way of this mutual interest and support, there is a fascinating collective developing.

In my own yard, I have 3 different types, including a rogue yellow variety. With my last bumper crop I dried a good supply and have had fun experimenting with it. I made a truly memorable lavender hazelnut shortbread; and it turns out that lavender and chocolate create quite a symbiotic combination, so of course, lavender brownies are essential for my chocolate loving friends.

I’ve tinkered with lavender syrup – and keep a bottle stashed in the fridge to drizzle over desserts and flavor drinks. I discovered lavender and mint are lively partners and perfect in a summer cooler with a muddle of mint, a shot of lavender syrup, and a spritz of lemon scented sparkling water.
Lavender-Mint Spritzer
2 sprigs fresh mint
1-2 Tbsp. lavender syrup, or to taste ( follows)
Lemon Scented Sparkling Water
Wedge lemon or lime
In a tall glass, place on sprig mint in bottom which has been pressed between fingers. Add syrup and muddle with mint to release the mint flavor. Fill the glass with ice, add a wedge of lemon and squeeze over the ice. Pour lemon scented sparkling water to fill the glass and give a stir with spoon. Garnish with 2nd mint sprig. Serves 1 ~~
Lavender Syrup
Inspired by Herbal Palate by Oster and Gilbertie
1 cup lavender leaves or flowers
3 cups water
1 cup sugar
Infuse boiling water with herbs. Steep 30 minutes and strain. Return infusion to pan; add sugar and boil 10 minutes. Cool and store in refrigerator.

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