While I was in the UK in May I visited The Norfolk lavender farm, and got some culinary lavender so far I have made lavender candy floss and madeleines.
Ann commented on the farm post -
Hubby and I have a small lavender farm here in New Zealand. When you cook with lavender make sure you use ONLY Angustifolia varieties - Hidcote, or in the US there is a variety called Provence which you can use even though it's not an angustifolia. Google lavender recipes - there are zillions online! Also go to www.aboutlavender.com where Kathy has a few recipes and also about her cookbook using lavender. Check out our website for shortbread and fudge(: www.purplepatch.co.nz
I promptly visited her site and dropped her an email asking for a guest post about her farm and some expert information about lavender from someone in the know and she kindly obliged.
Purple Patch Lavender – we live in Amberley, a small town of about 4000 people, in North Canterbury of New Zealand, about 50 kms north of Christchurch, our nearest big city, which you may have heard of in recent months due to terrible earthquakes which have destroyed so much of the city and in the 22nd February one, killed 182 people.
Ever since our children were small I wanted to work at something that I could do from home – I’m a real home-body! But in the meantime I worked at a ‘proper’ job in a bank. I read an article in a magazine about growing lavender and thought that could be a possibility, so I joined the New Zealand Lavender Growers Association and began accumulating information.
Eleven years ago we bought our present property, a bare block of land of about 15 acres, built our house and decided to plant – olives!
Then we realised that everyone was growing olives so we changed tack and planted 8000 lavender plants – in early summer! Here in North Canterbury we get about 28 inches of rainfall annually. We now know we should have planted in autumn but fortunately we had a wet summer and the plants all survived! We planted three varieties for oil – Lavandin x intermedia Grosso, Lavandin x intermedia Impress Purple and Angustifolia Pacific Blue (a New Zealand bred one).
After 15 months we harvested and had our first oil – now what do we do with it!! So began the process of deciding on products, manufacturers, label and most importantly our name.
At first I was still working full time and going to markets in the summer. We spent every hour God sent us weeding by hand as we wanted to try to be spray free. But then Our 3 1/2 year old granddaughter, Claudia, was diagnosed with leukaemia and our world fell apart. We spent a lot of time in Auckland (where they live) in the first year of her illness and of course the weeds grew waist high. So after that summer we now spray for the weeds once a year. It doesn’t eliminate them but controls them to some extent, and we do it well before any flowers are developing.
About five years ago we decided to bite the bullet and applied to Transit New Zealand, who have the say over roadside signs, to have a sign on the highway directing to our farm and bought a small building and set up shop.
I LOVE being at home and probably waste a lot of time, but I get things done – eventually! We get visitors from all over the world stopping at our shop. We have a collection garden of about 63 different lavenders and four sheep – one of which is Bella, our daughter’s pet sheep. The visitors love to feed her some grass and have their photo taken!
I have tried cooking with lavender – muffins, shortbread and the most beautiful panne cotta – yummmmmyyyyy. Lavender is of the mint family and you can use it where you would use rosemary – BUT - you MUST use only angustifolia varieties. For example I use Pacific Blue (but you won’t get that outside New Zealand), Hidcote, Munstead and one called ‘Provence’, which isn’t an angustifolia but the late Sharon Shipley used it in all her recipes in her lavender cookbook so that is obviously a mild enough lavandin to use, and I know it is available in the US. Other recipes to try are lavender cocktails, syrup, lemonade and now we have icecream made for us. Mostly you use the dried lavender but for the panne cotta and the ice cream we use the oil. With the dried you can use quite a bit but with the oil you only need a drop or two. To make it ‘nicer’ to eat I put the dried rubbings through a coffee grinder – a tip given to me by a lavender friend, Sarah of Lavender Wind Farm on Whidbey Island (www.lavenderwind.com) Another good lavender cooking site is Kathy Gehrt (www.discoverlavender.com )
Our website address is www.purplepatch.co.nz if you’d like to have a browse. If you use Facebook, search Purple Patch and ‘Like’ me – I’m trying to build up my following to have it’s own page!
Lavender is a fantastic healing herb, much under rated. So many think of it as a ‘granny’ herb but it is becoming more popular all the time – you just have to Google ‘lavender farms’ – there are so many in the US there is bound to be one near you, including Sequim WA three day lavender festival 3rd weekend in July – and now is the time to visit. Ours is all asleep for the winter but you have summer – so go find some and enjoy!
After chatting with Ann here is a video about her Granddaughter - she is slowly improving but its been a very hard journey, keep this wonderful family in your prayers