Harvesting the June (& July) Lavender Bloom in Sonoma Valley
Summer is officially in full swing. The brightest moon of the year, the Full Buck Supermoon, is beaming with light and Sonoma and Napa Valley vineyards and fields are filled with blooming lavender flowers to be harvested. As you walk through a lush field of lavender you can breathe in its soothing and sweet aroma and witness the buzzing energy of pollinators appreciating this special moment of the year.
When I started my garden in Sonoma Valley almost 19 years ago, I had just finished restoring a church schoolhouse from 1911 on Lovall Valley Road. This beautiful property had rows of Provence lavender, Meyer lemon trees and a big mint patch. We are so fortunate to live in this beautiful area where these different plants thrive, and I began thinking to myself about how I could bottle these botanical flavors and share this piece of Sonoma with others. At this time, I couldn’t understand why companies were using artificial flavors and colors in their Simple Syrups when nature already provides the perfect flavors to infuse. So, I figured there must be something better I can use to enhance my favorite iced sweet tea and natural soda recipes. Plus, being a mom to three amazing boys I really care about the ingredients I give my children, so I simply wanted to use the real juice and botanicals surrounding this special terroir rather than any synthetic flavorings.
Why We Infuse Provence Lavender?
Provence Lavender, (Lavandula x intermedia) is the culinary lavender, an aromatic perennial that thrives in full sun and well-drained soil and is a necessity for Wine Country provincial gardens as is well suited to our Sonoma and Napa Valley climate and terroir. Provence lavender grows 2 to 3 feet tall with the most fragrant violet-blue flowers that dry well once harvested, are sweetly fragrant, and have the most aromatic flavor for culinary syrup, jam, pastries, salts, and rubs.
Long considered an aphrodisiac, denoting love and romance, lavender was historically used to spice the food of queens, colonists, and conquerors. Lavender was then brought from Europe to the Americas, where it was grown as an herb of hospitality, medicine, perfume, and spice. We infuse our Simple Syrup with freshly dried ‘Provence’ culinary lavender flower buds, estate grown for us, as the perfect flavoring for champagne cocktails, added to iced or hot teas, sparkling water, sorbet, ice cream or to bake into cakes and pastries.
Last lavender season, I did an Instagram Live with our dearest friend Sarah Anderson of Chateau Sonoma where we created a Sonoma Lavender & Meyer Lemon French 75 cocktail. During her cocktail hour, we came up with the idea to collaborate for the next lavender harvest and have Sarah locally “estate” grow beautiful Provence lavender at her farm in Sonoma, CA just for us. She had fields of farmland and we needed more organic lavender than what we were able to source which sparked this idea. Who better than our resident Francophile expert, Sarah, to grow our French Lavender? We share so much in common; we are mothers of sons, we love architecture, and we both have Sonoma in our company names because we both treasure this region so much.
I encourage all to try growing your favorite variety! Whether in a pot on your balcony, or in your backyard, you don’t need an entire field to be able to enjoy lavender. I have also planted a partial field using Sonoma Biochar to test the different percentages in separate rows and how that nourishes the microbiome of the soil, how it holds water, and enhances the blooms. I will keep you posted next harvest on this progress!
Over the last few weeks, Sarah and her team have been hand-harvesting the lavender into small bundles to dry. Once dried, the lavender buds are shaken and rubbed to release the buds from the stems and then sifted to remove any flower debris or green stems that would affect the flavor.
I found these incredible antique sieves at Chateau Sonoma’s French Marketplace. It was such fun to pick up at her farm with all the dealers and their other beautiful antiques. Always one to buy functional items, I thought the sieves were not only beautiful, but essential to sift and clean the lavender buds which I find incredibly useful with the three different sizes of screens. Look for these at Chateau Sonoma or at her weekend French Marketplace where treasures abound.
The Process of Infusing:
Unlike most syrups on the market, we do not use artificial flavors or colors. Freshly dried lavender buds are slipped into large tea bags and generously infused into our Simple Syrup with our proprietary botanical infusion process in our steam kettles, similar to dried tea leaves into hot water. Many many pounds, therefore, an abundant amount of lavender flowers, go into each small batch to infuse in our pure cane simple syrup… creating pure authentic flavor!
How to Infuse into Your Favorite Summer Recipes:
Lavender Infused Simple Syrup is a beautiful way to add a botanical flavor to beverages and desserts. Simply sweeten iced or hot tea, drizzle over ice cream or add in sorbet, add a splash to sparkling water and cocktails.
Aline of Taart By Aline in Napa, CA created an incredible Lavender Cake infused with our Lavender Simple Syrup and local honey from Chateau Sonoma (pictured above). This simple syrup brings the flavor of Sonoma to your recipes.
After 19 years we remain true and devoted to infusing flavor from fresh juice, vibrant botanicals, genuine vanilla bean seeds, and local lavender flowers. We embrace the farm to flavor process and after all these years we are more than just simple syrup – we are innovating and striving to inspire cooks, baristas, mixologists, and bakers, every day.
We are most grateful to be sharing this with you. Cheers, be well, grow some lavender and love the ones you are with!
- Karin Campion, Founder of Sonoma Syrup Co.