Thursday, January 12, 2017

Lavender Drying and Bud Processing

During the summer months we harvest our lavender at the farm. (Learn how to harvest your lavender at home.) As we harvest, the bundles that are to be dried are hung upside down in our drying barn for 3 to 8 weeks depending on the temperature and humidity. Drying lavender inside, in the dark, out of the direct sunlight helps retain its color. The bundles are held together by rubber bands which helps to keep the bundles intact while the stalks shrink during drying. The bundles are hung on wires using paper clips, making sure to allow enough spacing for good air circulation.

The barn windows are kept open and we run large fans during the drying process to help provide adequate air circulation and prevent mold and mildew formation.

In our production fields we cultivate two intermedia (or “French”) varieties predominantly –‘Grosso’ for dried flower bundles and especially essential oil and ‘Provence’ primarily for its buds. (Click here for additional lavender variety suggestions.)

What exactly do we mean by buds and how do we remove them from the stalks? One lavender stalk holds approximately 100 rice-grain-sized flower buds – each one of them opens into a tiny flower about a 1/4 inch across. One of the many interesting things about lavender is that only about 15% of those flower blooms are in bloom at any one time. They only bloom for about two weeks or so and then the petals will wilt and the next set of flowers bloom. It does this completely at random, not from the bottom up or the top down. In other words, lavender is a serial bloomer – that’s why our fields of lavender are so purple for so long during the summer months.

One of the characteristics of the Provence variety is that when it is fully dry, the buds come off very easily. This is the reason that we don’t use Provence for wreaths or other dried flower arrangements. Early in the farm’s history, when we were processing 2,500 plants, we removed the buds by hand using a series of screens and sieves – a very labor-intensive process. After we grew to over 6,000 plants we acquired a rotating brush tool developed in Australia. Now with well over 25,000 plants, we simply feed the dried bundles into the spinning brushes and the buds are automatically stripped and collected below.

From here we use the dried lavender buds in a wide variety of personal care, therapeutic, household care, culinary and pet care products. Additionally, in line with our vision to operate in accordance with the highest environmental standards, the leftover lavender stalks are used to create our Lavender Fire Starters, Lavender Sticks and Lavender Algae Inhibitors.

One of the beauties of growing lavender (of which there are certainly many) is that there is no plant waste!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting! I wanted to do a farm tour but ran out of time, this was almost as good. (but I miss the scent!)