Lovely Lavender

When someone mentions lavender, what do you think of? Some people will think of a relaxing spa day; it lavender-fieldmight remind others of the perfume their grandma always wore; or maybe an image of fields of lavender in the French countryside might pop into your head. Lavender is an extremely versatile, easy to grow with proper conditions plant; the most striking thing about it are its purple flower spikes and lovely scent. Here are just a few of the uses of lavender if you grow it yourself:

Easy to Grow – All lavender needs to thrive is lots of sunshine and good drainage; it hates to be in moist soil!  Here in the South, lavender does best in container gardens because of the increased drainage and air circulation. Harvesting lavender flowers for fragrant arrangements and drying is easy with a few simple steps. Since lavender requires good air circulation, feel free to cut the long flower stems below the leaves of the plant. Clip flower stems randomly to keep the plant looking full. Flowers will keep their perfume for months when you harvest just before the flowers are entirely open.

Medicinal Benefits – Did you know that lavender has many healing properties? Research has found that lavender oil can decrease anxiety, as well as relieving gastric problems such as gas, bloating, and nausea. Using pillows or sachets of dried lavender can also relieve headaches and insomnia! Add a bunch of dried lavender in a sachet to your clothing drawers for fresh fragrance. Place a few dried flowers on your night stand or in your baby’s room for a relaxing night’s sleep.

lavenderDrying – Lavender is a very popular scent in perfumes and potpourri. To make your own dried lavender, simply snip a few stems off your plant, tie in a bunch, and hang upside down in a cool dark place. Once dried, lavender has many uses: you can make sachet bags or fold a sprig or two up with your linens for a fresh scent when you use them or even cook with it! Whip up a batch of these classic French shortbread cookies to impress family and friends!

Lemon Lavender Shortbread

-1 c. unsalted butter, softened
-2/3 c. powdered sugar
-Zest of 3 lemons, divided
-1 tsp. dried lavender buds, ground or finely chopped
-2 tsp. vanilla extract
-1/4 tsp. salt
-2 c. flour
-2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the butter, powdered sugar, lavender, and the zest of two of the lemons in an electric mixer and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add in vanilla extract and salt. With the mixer on a low speed, gradually blend in the flour until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until slightly firm, 30-60 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, combine granulated sugar and remaining lemon zest. Rub together with fingertips until evenly mixed and fragrant.
  4. Place chilled dough on a lightly-floured surface and roll to ¼ in. thickness. Sprinkle the top of the dough generously with the lemon sugar and then roll over with the rolling pin once or twice to press the sugar into the dough. Cut into desired shapes and transfer to prepared baking sheets.
  5. Bake 10-12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking, until the cookies are just set. Let cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
  6. Enjoy with a cup of your favorite tea!

The Family Tree has just stocked several varieties of lavender, including Sweet, French, and Grosso. Be sure to stop by soon to pick up your plants and to browse our selection of other herbs!

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