I never seem to know when to cut my lavender to get the best fragrance. Also, what is the best way to dry it.
Hardiness Zone: 6b
Rose from Malvern, PA
Timing is everything when harvesting herbs for preserving and storing. The trick is to gather your herbs at the point in their growing cycle when the volatile oils they contain are the most concentrated. In regards to lavender, the parts of the plant usually harvested for fragrance are the flowers and leaves. Young, year-old plants should only be harvested lightly, if at all so they can focus their energy on becoming established. To harvest, pick the flower spikes in the early blossom stage before the flowers have fully opened. Do this early in the day (after the dew has dried) during dry weather. It will help facilitate the drying process if there is no extra moisture on them.
You can dry lavender in a couple of ways. The easiest way is to bunch several stems together, secure the cut ends with a rubber band, and hang them upside down to dry. Collect enough stems to make a 1-inch thick bundle. If you are worried about dust or losing a few leaves or flower petals, cover the ends of the spikes with brown paper bags. Cutting a few small flaps (observation windows) down each side of the paper bags will allow for plenty of air circulation.
When drying herbs, slower is better. Ideally, herbs should be dried over a period of 1-2 weeks in a room that is cool, dark, and dry. If space is an issue, try drying them on a cooling rack or screen placed over the top of a cookie sheet. The cookie sheet can them be stored somewhere out of the way like on top of your refrigerator or hot water heater.
About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services.
I can sympathize. I have read you harvest lavender just before it opens. Only, I'm not sure how you tell when that is either. :o) So I've learned to keep track by checking when local u-pick farms in my area say their lavender is ready. HTH