Each year, I try to harvest several bunches of culinary lavender to process specifically for cooking. Lavender makes a great addition to many baked goods as well as drinks. The difference between homegrown lavender and the lavender you can buy in the spice shelves of the grocery stores is like night and day as far as flavor goes. And the process itself is relatively easy once you've grown the plant itself.
I try to make sure I harvest the lavender before the flowers start to open which, for our area (Seattle), is in early July. Many years, I drag my feet too long and miss that short window of opportunity. Oftentimes it's also dependent on weather, so you have to watch closely. I think for the last few years I missed the mark and ended up kicking myself for not harvesting my plants before the flowers opened.
Drying. This year I managed to time it properly. Drying lavender is pretty straightforward. If you want to get fancy you can use a food dehydrator, but I just bunch the stems up with rubber bands and then hang the bunches upside down in a dirt free and low traffic area of the house until they are dry.
Processing. When it comes down to processing the lavender, this is where patience is required. I suppose you can just rub the tiny buds off the lavender, store it and be on your merry way, but I like to be a lot more fastidious about my lavender. The kind you buy in the store is oftentimes full of little stems and other detritus.
See those little brown bud "wrappers" in the photo above? Well, I painstakingly go through each bud and pull them aside to ensure that what's left is just lavender buds. It might seem a little overly crazy, but I'm eating these and don't want all the twigs in there!
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