Archive for October, 2010

Last week I discovered dragon fruit. My friend Sharon who is visiting Viet Nam posted a blog about it last week. Check it out here. Finding the fruit taste bland, Sharon put out a call for help. She wanted to add it to her healthy diet of chocolate and red wine, but only if it she discovers a way to give it  more flavor. She asked her readers for serving suggestions.

 I love a challenge. So I went to an Asian Market and there I found a single, sad and tired looking dragon fruit. And let me tell you, it was a ‘draggin.’  As I put my grocery selections on the counter at the checkout station, a woman pointed at the fruit and said, “That looks old, it’s supposed to be shiny and bright red.”

A Pair of Dragon Fruits: Fresh and Fading


 “Yeah, I know. It’s the only one they have. I want to try it.” I answered. “How do you prepare it?”


She told me that is a fruit like a kiwi, just eat it.

If I was going to try dragon fruit, I wanted one that was in better shape. So later, I visited another ethnic grocery store and found a better specimen.  

Searching the internet for “dragon fruit recipe”, I found a recipe for Tropical Thai Fruit Salad – Served in a Pineapple.  A quick check of the ingredients satisfied my requirement that it contain dragon fruit. When I read the recipe for the dressing, I knew I had found the key for adding flavor. I was hopeful that in combination with pineapple, papaya, mango and star fruit, the dragon fruit would unleash its culinary personality.

Tropical Fruit Salad with Lavender-infused Coconut Milk Dressing

 My favorite herb is renowned for adding flavor and waking up even the most  mild fruit such as pears. What would happen if I added lavender to the coconut milk dressing? I sprinkled  ½ teaspoon of ground lavender into the coconut milk mixture and poured the dressing over the fruit. A quick taste handed me the answer I was hoping for. The flavor combination complimented the tropical fruit medley.

Would I miss the dragon fruit  if it wasn’t there? Sorry, I would never miss it. It was entirely forgettable. Reminds me of the song “Mister Cellophane.”  

I tell ya
Mister cellophane
Should have been my name
Mister cellophane
’cause you can look right through me walk right by me
And never know I’m there. . .

Poor dragon fruit, once the showy red exterior is peeled away, it’s just like Mister cellophane. You never know it’s there.

p.s. Sharon, I guess we will  need to keep looking for a flavor boost for the dragon fruit.

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Lavender-Infused Lattes

A strong storm hit Seattle yesterday and today. I sat at my dining room table this morning and watched the wind push around the hanging pots on my deck. A large cedar tree near the rear of our house bent over about 45 degrees, but withstood the wind gusts.

Rain came down in sheets. Water streamed down the street like a river. Dark clouds filled the sky. I needed a strong, hot and steamy drink to warm me up and remind me of summer. So I brewed up some lattes infused with the flavor of lavender. After steaming milk, I added a 1/4 teaspoon of the Lavender Extract that I got from Lavender Wind Farm. This extract adds just a hint of flavor, a small reminder of summer on this dark, stormy day.

Calico Cat

Curious Cat

Sipping my latte,  I felt my spirits lift. My neighbor’s cat came up on the deck to check out our Halloween pumpkins. Cats love lavender (catnip’s cousin), however I was surprised to see this calico beauty braving the wind and rain to get a close look at our soon-to-be Jack O’Lanterns.

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Rosalind Creasy Autographing her Books

Rosalind Creasy

Last June I attended an event that was informative, inspiring and enjoyable. Northwest Perennial Alliance hosted Hardy Plant Study weekend on June 18th through June 21st. The program was packed with terrific speakers, celebrity gardeners and timely topics. However one of the speakers left a lasting impression on me. She inspired me with her enthusiasm for creating edible landscapes.

Rosalind Creasy began her presentation with a story of how she fell in love as a child with gardening and later with food. Her presentation “Introduction to Edible Landscaping” attracted at least 100 people filling the large conference room.  Creasy told about her first edible landscape. In the 1980’s while living in California, Creasy replaced her lawn with an edible landscape. Now her neighbors gather to share the bounty, the FedEx driver can’t resist helping himself to a juicy strawberry, and children are attracted to the big orange pumpkins. Easy access to fresh, organic and locally grown herbs, fruits and vegetables is an added bonus.

Creasy enjoyed gardening from the time she was a child in Massachusetts. “My father gave me an array of vegetable plants for my small garden. The plants did not care for my tendency to move them around like I rearranged the furniture in my doll house.” Although her plants died, Creasy’s passion for growing food was born.

As a young woman, Creasy’s love for food and cooking not only made her very popular with her husband and his MIT colleagues, but also sparked an interest in discovering unusual varieties of herbs and other ingredients. She cooked her way through Julia Child’s cookbooks even before Julie Powell. Then she tackled, the Joyce Chen Cookbook. Both Julia Child and Joyce Chen lived in Cambridge, where they each appeared on TV cooking shows.

In 1968, Creasy and her husband Robert bought a home in the Bay Area and she returned to gardening. Creating gardens and growing food kept luring Creasy to learn more. So she returned to school to get a degree in landscape design. When her husband began to oversee scientific projects all over the world, Creasy often visited markets and gardens in places like Milan, Grenoble, Cairo, Taipei, Hong Kong, Paris and Vienna. When she encountered unusual-looking radicchios or chili peppers, she would ask, “How do I cook it?” and “Where can I get seeds?”

During Creasy’s visit to Israel, she experienced a compelling moment. Outside of Haifa on her way to visit a kibbutz, Creasy “was struck by how hard it was for the Israelis to grow food on the limited arable land in their country, which is mostly desert.” Creasy realized that Americans were missing an opportunity to grow at least some of their own fruits and vegetables in their yards. This was the moment when Creasy’s vision of edible landscaping came into focus.

Creasy’s first book, The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping: Home Landscaping with Food-Bearing Plants and Resource-Saving Techniques, (Sierra Club Books, 1982). The book was a big hit and  sold more than 140,000 copies, won the Garden Writers Association’s Quill and Trowel award, was chosen as a Book of the Month selection and was hailed by The Wall Street Journal as the best garden book of 1982.

Creasy’s most recent book, an updated version of The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping, is titled Edible Landscaping (Sierra Club Books, 2010).  The book will be available in stores November 2010.

p.s. Creasy has written 20 books. The books have vivid photographs created by Creasy. On a personal note, I own at least five of her books. If you love food and gardening, you will love these. 

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Kwan Yin

Kwan Yin

When I was asked to speak to the Washington State Federation of Garden Clubs, I learned about the Bastyr University Medicinal Herb Garden. JoAnne Gold had invited me to come to this meeting and to talk about cooking with lavender. After my talk, she asked if I’d ever visited Bastyr’s herb garden and handed me a brochure with its hours, directions and how it is organized.  I was impressed with her thoughtful kindness. I explained that I had always wanted to see it, but somehow never got around to it. As I was thanking her, I pledged to set some time aside and visit the garden soon.

Last Sunday morning with the October sun shining brightly, I drove to Kenmore, an east-side suburb of Seattle. Bastyr University’s building used to be St. Edward’s Seminary, an institution for developing Catholic priests. The Seminary closed in 1976. The State of Washington bought most of the property (316 acres). Bastyr University leased the seminary building in 1977 and in 2005 bought out their lease.

I have a dim memory of visiting St. Edward’s as a child. When I think about that visit, I remember tall trees and vast green fields of lawn, maybe we were there for a family picnic.

On Sunday, I was there to see the herb garden. The garden is divided into ten sections. The center of the garden is devoted to nine Physiological Systems Beds containing 100 key medicinal plants that support each body system.

Gastrointestinal Section

The physiological systems represented are:

  • Brain and central nervous system
  • Reproductive system
  • Genito-urinary system
  • Respiratory system
  • Immune and lymphatic system
  • Digestive system
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Endocrine system
  • Cardiovascular system

Lavender's label nearly crowded out my monkshood

I looked around for lavender wondering where it would be classified. I’ve read claims about the health benefits lavender delivers to each of these systems.  There it was in the section labeled “Brain and Central Nervous System.”  I would have liked to hear the rationale for including it here. I’m guessing lavender’s ability to soothe the spirit, calm the nerves and induce sleep made it a prime candidate for this section.

What were some of the other herbs that fell into this category?  St. John’s Wort, Monkshood, Oats and German Chamomile are growing there along with lavender.

I am glad I’d visited this garden, it made me think more about the modern health system and how we’ve built an industry to create drugs for everything from insomnia to impotence. Our doctors tell us to take drugs to lower our blood pressure and reduce our cholesterol. Maybe these drugs do more harm than good, but I confess I’m a bit skeptical. Bastyr University gives me hope that educating people about their healing power of herbs will result in a more natural way to maintain our health.

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Making Whoopee

Soft, sweet, sticky whoopie pies are one of my many guilty pleasures. Until now, I’ve never made whoopie pies, however I do remember the chocolate cake sandwich filled with marshmallow cream. Funny, I don’t know where I got them, maybe a neighborhood bakery or corner store. I haven’t given whoopie pies a second thought since childhood. That is, until the November/December issue of my “WeightWatchers” magazine arrived a couple of days ago.

Browsing through the magazine, I read the articles that inspire me to keep eating healthy food, in appropriate portions and give me ideas for increasing  physical activity. This magazine always gives me new tips. Then I saw the whoopie pie recipe on page 70 for Peppermint Whoopie Pies.

That recipe activated my appetite along with my memories of past whoopie pie affairs. Suddenly I was thinking about the song “Making Whoopee”. I could hear Ella Fitzgerald’s  sultry voice singing the suggestive lyrics.

“The choir sings, “Here comes the bride”

Another victim is at her side.

He’s lost his reason

‘Cause it’s the season

For making whoopee.”

Could it be this song was written with whoopie pies in mind? Or maybe it’s the other way around, the sticky, sweet treat got its name from the song? I talked with my sister about this question. She thinks there is no doubt, the Whoopie Pie is a euphemism for making love and got its name from the song. She said, “How else would you trap a man into marriage, but making Whoopie Pie?”

Turning back to recipes and baking, as I read this recipe, it triggered my imagination. I had recently purchased lavender extract from Lavender Wind Farm. What if I used that instead of peppermint extract when I made this recipe? I could replace the  green food coloring in the filling  with purple. Oh, I’m so happy with my version of whoopie pie.

 Make whoopie or whoopee (or both) you won’t regret it!

Whoopie Pies

Lavender Whoopie Pies

Lavender Whoopie

2 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

½ teaspoon lavender extract

1 cup buttermilk

Lavender Marshmallow Filling (recipe below)

1.    Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2.    Sift the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking powder & salt) together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

3.    Cream butter and sugar together in large mixing bowl on medium speed. Reduce speed to low, mix in egg and lavender extract until well blended.

4.    Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternating, begin and end with flour and mix just until blended.

5.    Drop 12 tablespoons of batter onto baking sheet about 1 ½ inches apart. Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes. To test for doneness, gently touch a cookie, if the cooking shows a dent, keep cooking. When the cookie springs back after you touch it, it is done.

6.    Remove from oven and slide the parchment paper onto rack and let cool. Repeat this process with the remaining batter to make 48 cakes.

7.    Meanwhile make the Lavender Marshmallow Filling (see below for recipe).

8.    Using a metal spatula, remove cakes from parchment paper. Spread filling evenly on flat side of 24 cakes. Top with remaining cakes, rounded side up, to create 24 whoopie pies.

Lavender Marshmallow Filling

1 ½ cups corn syrup

4 egg whites, large and at room temperature

Pinch of cream of tartar

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon lavender extract

Purple food coloring gel

1.     Pour 1 ½ cups of light corn syrup in a medium-sized saucepan. Cover and cook over high heat for 4 minutes.

2.    While the corn syrup is reaching temperature, put egg whites and cream of tartar in a large metal bowl of electric stand mixer. With whisk attachment on medium-high speed, beat until soft peaks form. Turn mixed off.

3.    Uncover pan and boil syrup until it reaches 230ºF (thread stage) on candy thermometer, 8-10 minutes. Remove pan from heat. With mixer on low speed, add hot syrup in slow steady stream along side of bowl, beating until blended. Increase speed to medium-high. Beat mixture until bowl is lukewarm to touch 12-14 minutes.

4.    Turn mixer off, add powdered sugar, vanilla and lavender extracts, beat until smooth.

5.    Turn mixer off, add one drop of food coloring gel. Beat until blended.


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Getty Villa

Replica of First-Century Roman Country House

The Getty Villa, built in 1974, was modeled after Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy. Much of the Villa dei Papiri remains are still buried because  Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D.79 , so many of the Getty Villa’s architectural details come from other ancient Roman homes in southern Italy near Pompeii.

I was stunned by the architectural beauty of the Getty Villa. The Outer Peristyle consists of a row of columns surrounding the formal garden. The 220 foot reflecting pool, the formal gardens of boxwood, acanthus, foxglove and hellebore and the statues invite quiet conversation and peaceful contemplation. The day we visited was sunny and hot. As I walked through this space, I could feel a hush as if someone had said, “Shhh.”

Never one to want to stay too long in a museum, I wanted to tour the Herb Garden. The Villa Dei Papiri would have been a long way from Rome, so it would’ve need to grow the food for its residents needs. Ancient Romans would’ve relied on the bounty of their garden for cooking, medicine and ceremony.

The symmetry of the garden added a feel of balance and order.The herb garden is planted at the Villa’s west side. Olive trees thrived in their place next to the Villa. Along the walk ways, herbs –lavender, basil, calamint, oregano, thyme and horsemint grew. Fruit trees – apple, pomegranate, lime, pear, fig – stood at the far west side. I couldn’t help imagining what it would have been like to live in this house in ancient times, so much simpler in some ways, no cell phones, email or Facebook. What did they do with all that peace and quiet?

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Sorry, My Image Couldn't Capture the Fragrance

Yesterday, I found a small package on my doorstop. I looked at the return address and discovered it was from my sister Chris who lives in Columbus, Ohio. I ripped the package open, and before I could see the contents, I could smell the fresh fragrance. Inside was a bar of soap. Not just ordinary soap, it was handmade with natural olive oil and oatmeal; its fragrance came from lavender.

Naked Bear

"Naked ....It's Natural": great tag line!

I smiled when I read that the farm’s name was Freckle Bear Lavender . What’s the story behind that name? I’m going to make it my mission to find out what it is. The soap was made by Bear Naked Goods. The person who dreamed up these names must be creative. Then I noticed the logo, and laughed.

I’ve never thought much about soap. For most of my life, my favorite was Ivory Soap. When I took a bath, it would float around the tub making it easy to find. What it was made with never  crossed my mind. Over the years, I’ve become more careful what I put on my skin.

This past summer, my hands were rough and red with a strange rash on my palms. I went to a dermatologist who took one look at my hands and asked, “Are you using antibacterial soap?”  

I answered, “yes.” Then she told me antibacterial soap was probably the culprit. She told me to stop using it. My hands were back to normal within a week.

When I was researching lavender farms in Virginia, I came across a farm called The Lavender Path. This was posted on their home page:

“You need to read the most recent article explaining the negatives of anti-bacterial soap published by Scientific American. Our hand soap is one of the most popular products and the lavender essential oil has natural anti-bacterial properties. That means the Chesapeake Bay does not get any nasty chemicals to harm the ecosystem.”

Now I’m even more aware of the risks of using antibacterial soap. Not only does it cause skin rashes for people who have sensitive skin, it contains potentially dangerous chemicals that can disrupt hormones and “may actually be aiding in the development of superbacteria.” Another problem is that these chemicals eventually get into our water supply, soil and food.

I am grateful to lavender growers like the one at The Lavender Path for getting the word out about the benefit of using natural soaps. If you are like me, and have not thought much about soap, I ask you to consider switching to natural soap made with natural ingredients.

Thank you, also, to my sister, for a thoughtful gift!

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Lavender Heart Botanicals Shop

Lavender Heart Botanicals Shop

When I met Holly Henderson at her shop, Lavender Heart Botanicals, I wanted to know more about her. After writing a book about lavender, I was curious about how this herb had enchanted Holly.

Holly grew up on her family’s farm, The Henderson Holly Farm, in the 1960’s. My first question was, “Were you named for the farm?”

She tossed her long red hair back, and said, “I never knew for sure. My mother told me that back in Minnesota, a lost little girl knocked on the front door on a snowy winter day. Mom invited her to come in out of the cold while she called her parents. Her name was Holly. Mom decided then if she ever had a baby girl, she would name her Holly.”

Holly’s parents set up a production facility, enlisted a crew, and created a business making and selling wreaths, topiaries and garlands. They shipped their botanical masterpieces across the United States and to seven foreign countries. Holly and her five siblings worked on the farm cutting holly, making wreaths and packing them for shipping. This experience would eventually lead Holly to lavender, however the route would be indirect.

Holly couldn’t wait to escape and go off to college. She joined several bands, where she sang and played acoustical guitar.

When the music scene wasn’t paying the bills, Holly got a part-time job in a florist shop. With her blue eyes flashing, Holly said, “You won’t believe what my first customer ordered: a casket cover! I didn’t have a clue how to make one. My mother looked everything up, so that’s what I did, I looked it up in a catalog. I found fresh gladioli, carnations and lilies, foam and a form to hold them in place, and actually created one.”

As Holly told me similar stories of her resourcefulness, I began to wonder when lavender would enter the scene.

Several years later, Holly was living in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. A phone call from Jan, a grade school friend, brought her another opportunity. “Holly, I’ve been looking at wreaths in the catalogs of Williams-Sonoma, Smith & Hawken and others. I know we could do better. Let’s start a business making wreaths and garlands. You’d be great at design and I could do the marketing.”

Jan snagged a large order with I Magnin, an upscale department store in Seattle. They were looking for a ‘gift-for-purchase’ item. Jan showed them the Lavender Heart Sachet that Holly had designed: a heart-shaped sachet filled with lavender buds & decorated with pink roses made of satin ribbon. I Magnin ordered 1000!

Now, Holly had to figure out how to actually produce these sachets.  “My dad offered the barn as a production space, his crew for assembly, and, suddenly, I was back to the place that I had wanted to escape from during my teens.”

Pink Heart Wreath

Heart Wreath at Lavender Heart Botanicals

Now, I began to see how wreath-making, lavender and Holly’s forceful personality were coming together to weave a path to her shop.

“Lavender was becoming popular in wreaths, topiaries and floral arrangements. I looked to France, Germany and Holland for new design ideas. When Eddie Bauer was opening stores, they engaged us to provide props; when Victoria’s Secret was doing a photo shoot and wanted lavender en masse, they turned to Lavender Heart Botanicals.”

As time went on, Jan decided to leave the partnership, and Holly’s five-year old son, Will, was ready to start school. Holly wanted to simplify her life and concentrate on parenting her son. “I found a retail location here in Madison Valley that met my criteria:  a five- minute drive to Will’s school.”

Whimsical Chicken Purse

Whimsical Chicken Purse

“My shop offers unique products such as lavender water, wreaths, fine soaps, candles and unique gifts like this whimsical chicken purse,” Holly said. While I talked with Holly, several customers came into her shop. Two women walked in together. They oohed and awed over the chicken purse and eventually bought it. I asked them if they lived around here.

Music lured Holly away from wreath-making at her parent’s holly farm. Then lavender inspired Holly’s

What a lovely cookbook!

creativity for botanical design, and under the spell of lavender, she returned to the holly farm. When Holly’s son Will came along, opened Lavender Heart Botanicals. Today, Holly’s Lavender Heart gift shop offers her customers unique gifts for nearly every occasion. Holly’s son is in college, planning on becoming a doctor. Holly’s creativity continues to delight her customers.

You will love the items in Holly’s shop, however if you’re looking for a chicken purse, you’re out of luck. Somebody already bought it.

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Grapefruit for Breakfast

Ruby Red is my  favorite variety of grapefruit. As a child, I learned to love this fruit, whether white, pink or red. I would sprinkle sugar over the top of the glistening flesh. With a spoon, I’d scoop the juicy fruit out of its pocket-like sections. Occasionally, the juice would squirt up stinging my eyes. The exotic fragrance would make my mouth water in anticipation. Part of the fun of eating a grapefruit was scraping out each pocket. After I had salvaged every morsel of fruit, I’d fold the rind in half and squeeze the juice into a bowl. Then I’d pick up my bowl and drink the juice. This ritual was a delicious and nutritious way to begin my day.

When I saw grapefruits at Metropolitan Market today, I could not resist them. I brought home 3 Ruby Reds grown organically in California. Grapefruits grow in clusters like gigantic grapes on evergreen trees. If you were wondering where the name came from, you now have the answer. The fruit looked like grapes so it was dubbed grapefruit.

In 1750, when the fruit was first described by Griffith Hughes, he called it “the Forbidden Fruit” of Barbados. What a mysterious name!

The grapefruit’s first botanical name was Citrus paradisi. In the 1940’s, the official name changed once again to Citrus x paradisi when genetic analyses showed that the grapefruit tree resulted from an unintentional cross between the sweet orange and the pummelo.

Ruby Red Grapefruit

How did grapefruit come to the United States? In 1823,”Count Odette Phillipe took grapefruit seeds to Safety Harbor near Tampa, Florida. When the seedlings fruited, their seeds were distributed around the neighborhood.”  Today the United States is the largest grapefruit producer in the world with commercial growers in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California.

Grapefruit is in season October through June. Ruby Red, the variety I like best, has been around since 1929. It was discovered in Texas, a random mutation was spotted in a citrus grove. The grower, Mr. A. E. Henninger, patented it in 1934. Ruby Red is the first citrus ever to be patented.

Now I’m going to share one of my favorite fall and winter treats – Broiled Red Ruby Grapefruit with Lavender Sugar. Enjoy!

Broiled Grapefruit with Lavender Sugar




Broiled Red Ruby Grapefruit with Lavender Sugar

1 grapefruit (cut in half crosswise)
1 teaspoon lavender sugar

1. Trim the bottom of each half so it sits straight up.
2. Place grapefruit halves in ovenproof ramekins.
3. Sprinkle lavender sugar on each half.
4. Place in oven under hot broiler for 2-3 minutes.

Makes 2 servings



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This is Part 2 of my interview with Julie Haushalter of White Oak Lavender. Julie tells us more about her farm, the challenges she has met as a lavender grower and tips for those of you who are considering planting a lavender farm.




Julie and Rick of White Oak Lavender Farm

What varieties of lavender do you grow? 

Our farm has 31 different varieties of lavender. True Grosso, Provence then Hidcote and Maillette are our most common plants. We also have a good bit of Munstead, Royal Velvet and Sachet. Along with those we have Buena Vista, Folgate, Giant Impress, Fat Spike and others. We also have some pinks.  We grow about 100 Melissa plants and 100 Miss Katherine (miniature pink).

Where do you buy your plants?  We have bought plants from Lavender at Stonegate in Oregon, Victor’s Lavender in Sequim, Washington and Viette Nursery in Fishersville, Virginia. In two years, we hope to have 10,000 plants under cultivation.

Lavender Field with View of Mountain

How difficult is it to create and run a lavender farm? I’d have to say growing lavender is not difficult; however commitment to your plants’ needs is essential. The farming cycle demands that the grower attends to the farm day-in and day-out. If you are a person who enjoys this routine, growing lavender can be a labor of love. If not, you would probably consider growing lavender to be a difficult job. 

What challenges have you faced? ZONING…zoning…zoning.  If having the public on the farm is important to you, then you really need to work with the zoning committee to determine if you fit the agritourism regulations in your area. We had to pay to widen the entrance to our lane to meet standards for a commercial entrance and we have recently had to get a special use permit, allowing us to have public meetings. All the neighbors had to agree that we could be open to the public. Kindness, honesty and clarity of your goals make a big difference. In many areas people have to be educated on why lavender might be a good crop to grow! 

Julie Harvesting Lavender

Do you have advice for people who are thinking about growing lavender? Growers must be committed to good farming practices. First, it is important to determine your desired end product. Do you want to specialize in the buds and dried flowers or in distilling the oils? Will you be primarily bath & body or will you specialize in gourmet food items? Will your farm be open to the public? The answer to these questions will determine how you grow your facilities. Do you need a certified kitchen, dedicated space for processing, bottling equipment, distillery, etc? Do your zoning laws allow the type of farm you envision?

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