The Sweet Scent and Taste of Lavender
By Stacy Milbouer / Fiddlehead Contributing Editor
It’s purple. It’s fragrant. It’s the hip herb to have in your house and in your pantry.
Lovely, lovely lavender is popping up on menus, in DIY crafts and health products – well, like lavender in a mid-summer field.
Forbes magazine just ran an article about the ubiquitous presence of lavender on restaurant menus. Martha Stewart waxed poetic about properties of lavender on her website. She wrote recently about finding a small bottle of lavender seeds her late father had gathered from their small, New Jersey garden a half century before that recently yielded a crop of the fragrant plants.
The lavender market has grown over the last decade, primarily for its healing properties. The herb is being used in creams, salves, soothing baby products, acne and sunburn treatments and even migraine relievers.
And lavender is the object of obsession of entrepreneur Patricia Carew, after she first saw a field of the purple plants growing on a New York farm more than a decade ago.
Shortly after that visit Carew moved to Hollis and planted more than 300 lavender plants “so we could have a mini hobby farm of our own.” And four years ago, that hobby turned into a small business – Laromay Lavender.
“The name Laromay is a combination of my late dad’s name (Larry) ‘Lar’ and May, because my daughter was born in May,” said Carew. “Also, if you happen to look in the middle of the word it spells out ‘aroma.’ I had to go with it once I saw that.”
Carew’s dad was a big influence on her life and career.
“He owned his own cleaning business, so I learned early on the ups and downs of owning your own business, but I always knew I had an entrepreneurial spirit,” she said. “I was cleaning toilets with him at 8 years old.”
That dream was delayed for a while. “I worked in an office for 25 years after attending a vocational high school for business,” she said. “I would sit in my cubicle and dream of owning my own lavender farm in Hollis someday and being able to spend more time with our daughter.”
After Carew and her husband took a UNH Extension class for those wanting to have home farms, she was ready. Now Carew has multiple gardens with 2,000 plants.
“My dream farm,” she said.
She grows more than a dozen lavender varieties with romantic names like Royal Velvet, Sweet Romance, Edelweiss, Phenomenal, Grosso, Munstead, Betty’s Blue, Lodden Blue, Fred Boutin, Provence, Hidcote and Folgate.
“We believe lavender adds beauty to the environment when it blooms. And we’re passionate about making products that are as close to nature as possible,” said Carew. “We weed each row of lavender by hand – they are herbicide- and pesticide-free.”
Those products include linen spray, lavender antibacterial gel, sweet lavender foot rub, lavender bar soap, lavender-infused honey, lavender belly-stuffed purple teddy bears and dried lavender bundles, which look like something you’d find on a table in Provence. They can be purchased online at www.laromay.com or at Lull Farm where Carew also works as a floral designer. .
Lavender Fun Facts
- Lavender is a perennial in the mint family.
- The origins of lavender are believed to be from the Mediterranean, Middle East and India and date back 2,500 years.
- Its name comes from the Latin word “lavare,” to wash.
- Lavender buds are covered in tiny hairs.
- For most cooking applications, it is the dried flower of the herb that is used.
- Lavender is drought-tolerant and can thrive in high temperatures.
- Lavender oil is said to increase drowsiness.
- Lavender is one of the ingredients in Herbs de Provence.
- The lavender found within King Tutankhamen’s tomb when it was opened in 1922, 3,000 years after was sealed, still retained some of its fragrance.
- Lavender delivers a floral, slightly sweet flavor to food and drinks.
- Lavender flowers have also become popular for use at weddings as decoration, gifts and as confetti for tossing over the newlyweds.
Lavender, as a member of the mint family, adds a delicate floral flavor to a variety of food and beverages, including soups, salads, cookies, cakes. During these dog days, this recipe for lavender lemonade might be just the cure for the mid-summer “thirsties.”
2 cups boiling water
2 cups cold water
1 cup lavender flowers
1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Lavender honey to taste (or one cup sugar)
Place the lavender flowers in a pitcher. Pour the boiling water over the lavender, cover with plastic wrap and allow to steep 10 minutes. Strain and discard the lavender from the water and return the water to the pitcher. Add the cold water, lemon juice and honey or sugar to the pitcher and stir until the sugar dissolves. If you want the drink to appear purple, add a few drops of red and blue food coloring. Refrigerate until serving.