The early morning air spoke lavender to me this morning. The valley is alive with it: The lavender farms near where I work have rows and rows of purple in the fields. Lavender grows on the boulevards along the highway in my town, in parks, and in storefront planters. It even softens the barren blacktop of unwelcoming parking lots.
It's hay mowing time here in the valley too, as many farms bring in their second cut of the season. The scents of lavender and fresh-mown hay combine to make an aroma uniquely evocative of summertime.
You can almost taste the air.
It is a glory.
Lavender is an undemanding plant, willing to take root and even flourish in poor soil, tolerant of drought, and requiring little care other than a good trimming once its blooming time is done. Farmers and public planners alike have come to value its usefulness in places where other crops just will not grow. They plant it in those inhospitable spaces, and reserve the richer soil for more needy crops.
It's lavender harvest time right now. Farmer who grow lavender as a commercial crop are cutting the lavender flower heads, catching the buds just before they open into full flower. They'll dry the lavender and sell some of it just as it is, use some to make essential oils, and - combined other herbs grown on their farms - they'll make wonderful herbs de Provence.
Local herbs de Provence are widely available at farm markets but I like to make my own. There is a pleasure in mixing the highly scented herbs together, and a pleasure in using a flavourful ingredient I've made with my own hands.
If you have never tried herbs de Provence, I encourage you to do so. They are very highly flavoured and a little goes a long way, but they can turn something simple like roast chicken into something truly amazing.
Here's what I put in my herbs de Provence. (It's a dried herb mix so all of the herbs listed here are used in their dried form.)
- 3 Tablespoons basil
- 3 Tablespoons rosemary
- 3 Tablespoons parsley
- 3 Tablespoons lavender
- 1 Tablespoon savory
- 1 Tablespoon thyme
- 1 Tablespoon marjoram
- 1 teaspoon sage
Please do feel free to adjust the quantities or even to leave out any ingredient you don't care for. Pretty nearly every farm that makes herbs de Provence its own specific blend. You can have your own too.