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In Love with Lavender and Provence

I’ve only been in Provence once during lavender season. It was many years ago when everything in the region was new to me and I was much less adventurous. As a result, I didn’t see much lavender and have regretted it ever since. This year I wanted to be here in time to see it before it would be harvested. As everyone knows, there have been many things going on in the world that could potentially put this plan off-course, but thankfully it worked out.

Continue reading here for the original contributor blog post by: A Table en Provence.

Love Lavender and Provence

©Paula Kane

Lavender Fields in Provence

Lavender is a crop like any other, the exact flowering schedule is completely up to Mother Nature. However, in Provence, you can generally see lavender fields in bloom from the end of June through mid-August. The harvest depends on the year, as the farmers want to ensure they pick at the peak of the season.

Sault is considered the lavender capital of Provence, as there are many fields nearby. Every year on August 15th there is a festival celebrating the end of the season.

Raina Stinson Photography Marie Lavender Guide Dream Weddings Provence

©Raina Stinson Photography

Where to see the fields?

Fete de la Lavande in Sault

La Ferme aux Lavandes in Sault

L’Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque near Gordes

In the Luberon at the right time: A great place to start would be the stunning hilltop village of Gordes. Head towards the viewpoint below the church, where you should be able to see a lavender field almost immediately below, looking towards Joucas. It’s a spectacular panorama with or without lavender in bloom!

When you’ve finished exploring Gordes, head towards tiny Joucas. If you don’t have time to explore Joucas – it has an excellent outdoor café-restaurant, a splendid little church and a pretty town hall – follow the signs to Roussillon. You will be able to get up close and personal to lavender, as the road between Roussillon and Joucas gives terrific close-up views and photo opportunities. There are a couple of large lavender fields here along with a few nearby smaller ones.

Smaller, and shall I say, ‘secret’ places to see lavender fields are just below Saignon, a pretty hilltop village near Apt, and en route to Rustrel and the Colorado Provençal – a little out of the way but magnificent scenery to enjoy.

Lavender Basics

A part of the mint family, there are 39 varieties of lavender. Although we typically associate lavender with purple flowers, the varietals include many colours, from deep blue to white. The plants love the dry, sandy, rocky soil that is typical of southern France. A relatively easy plant to grow. Lavender is well-suited to the Provencal climate with hot, dry summers, and cold winters the plants require minimal care.

Lavender vs Lavandin

Two main lavender varieties grow in Provence. The “real” lavender (Lavandula angustifolia Mill) or in French (lavande fine) is a small tufted plant with a single floral spike. Each plant is unique. The plants grow naturally at elevations between 600 and 1,400 meters, but cultivation is generally above 800m. Each plant is unique.

Lavender Varieties

Did you know that lavender is actually a family of Lamiaceae plants that includes several species? As part of the mint family, there are 39 varieties of lavender. Although we typically associate lavender with purple flowers, the varietals include many colours, from deep blue to white. The plants love the dry, sandy, rocky soil that is typical of southern France. A relatively easy plant to grow. Lavender is well-suited to the Provencal climate with hot, dry summers and cold winters; the plants require minimal care.

Lavandula angustifolia

This is the lavender scientific name of ‘fine lavender,’ or ‘true lavender,’ which is also called ‘officinal lavender.’ It grows exclusively above 2600 feet of altitude. A relatively small stem characterizes the lavender plant compared to other varieties.

There is only one flower stalk on each stem. Its flower is slightly purple-blue but more open than the lavandin flower. This is the best for perfumers because of its delicate scent. Once distilled, the essential oil of fine lavender is believed to have medicinal virtues.

Lavandula latifolia

The ‘aspic lavender’ grows at altitudes greater than 2000 feet above sea level. The plant is larger in size but with smaller stems in comparison with fine lavender. The scent of this variety is very camphoric. This variety is mainly found in Spain and Portugal.

Remember provence-lavender-sachet-bags

Lavandula hybrida

This hybrid is a combination of the previous two varieties, and therefore it reproduces only by plants and not by sowing seeds. Lavandin (French name) is a robust plant with long green stems forming a ball-shaped tuft. Its flower stalks are long and blue, almost purple.

The blooms from these plants are used mainly focused on olfactory qualities. Used extensively in the perfume and detergents industry to produce essential oils, lavender soap, and make sachets or lavender bouquets.

Lavender Recipes

Lavender Mint Meyer Lemonade
Refreshing and tasty this drink may be come your go-to summer beverage.
Check out this recipe
Lavender Mint Meyer Lemonade @AtableenProvence
Lavender Shortbread
This recipe takes my classic shortbread recipe and adds a new flavour and colour dimension, both natural, by adding Fresh Lavender. Processing fresh lavender flowers with sugar releases the natural oils to create a heavenly smell and colour of our beloved lavender, an herb thought of mostly for perfumes and now for our culinary delight. Close your eyes, and you will think you are in a lavender field!
Check out this recipe
Lavender Shortbread a Sweet Provencal Treat
Lavender Crème Anglaise
If you're looking to broaden your horizons and add some aromatic flavours to your dishes, this custard sauce is the way to go. Whether you add it to some delicate desserts or brighten up a seafood dish, this crème anglaise is a beautiful custard sauce recipe to keep in your back pocket.
Check out this recipe
Lavender Flavoured Crème Anglaise
Apricot and Lavender Ice Cream
Don't shy away from making ice cream. This recipe takes advantage of ripe stonefruit (apricot, peach), and needs little sugar. The lavender flavouring gives it that hint of Provence.
Check out this recipe
Apricot and Lavender Ice Cream Recipe

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Paula Kane

From a background in advertising and design, Paula Kane has forged a career that combines her love of good food and wine with her expertise in marketing to produce highly successful culinary events across Canada. Paula first travelled to France 20 years ago and has been returning ever since. She received a scholarship from the James Beard Foundation to attend Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, from which she was graduated in 2009. She has completed the International Sommelier Guild Wine Fundamentals and recently, the Hautes Etudes du Goût program in gastronomy from which she was awarded a Masters degree from the University of Reims in Champagne, France. For the past ten years, Paula has spent part of her year in the Vaucluse where she cycles, cooks, drinks wine, explores and shares her discoveries with others on her website A Table en Provence. Recently she launched an online magazine —Olive + Sweetpea— dedicated to all things she is passionate about: food, wine, travel, home and women trailblazers.

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