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Shirley Bovshow shares simple steps to growing and drying lavender for cooking and crafting needs.

OVERVIEW:
If you’re drying lavender for cooking, you’re going to want to use English varieties, because it’s milder and has a sweeter flavor. Others, like French and Spanish, are more pungent and have a soapy flavor, but are excellent for crafting.

HOW TO GROW:
Lavender is NOT fussy, it can grow in the ground or from a container, as long as the container breathes, like a terra cotta material. Plastic isn’t a good choice because it’s not porous. It can even grow out of stone; it just needs full sun and water. It can bloom from spring all the way through fall if the climate is mild enough.

HOW TO HARVEST:
Look for a long, tall flower stem and cut it to just about the leaf. Never cut down so far where you’re cutting it into the woody part. The perfect time to harvest is when the flower head looks like a wand and starts to open from the bottom up, when it’s kind of closed is the perfect time. And that flower head doesn’t just contain one flower, it can hold up to hundreds of blooms!

HOW TO DRY:
Take a bundle of 1-2 dozen and wrap them with a rubber band. You will see most dried lavender is sold with a string. This might look cute and pretty, but it’s not practical when you’re in the drying process because lavender shrinks as it dries. If you tie it together with string during this process it will slip and fall off. A rubber band will retract with the lavender as it shrinks and dries.

Hang your bundles on a rack like this, but if you don’t have a rack you can use clothes hanger pins and cover them with a paper bag to keep dry. It takes about 2-4 weeks to get really dry, and when it’s ready you just take the stalk and pull down the buds like this! Store the dry buds in an airtight container. It stays great and fresh for at least 6 months, but if stored correctly you can use it for up to 2 years!

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