I’ve been creating fresh and dried lavender recipes lately, and I’m more smitten than ever with the beauty, fragrance, and haunting, spicy-floral taste of this wonderful herb. Yesterday, I decided to revel in it for a whole day, and took a road trip to the Deep Creek Lavender Farm in rural western Maryland. I’ll just say the experience was calming and uplifting–if I’d seen pearly gates there, I’d have been certain I was in heaven! The soothing scent of the flower spires swaying in the breeze, the constant contented humming of the bees, and the cheerful bird songs combined to treat me to a magical, therapeutic day.
Mostly, I’m going to let the photos here tell you the story. The farm is tucked down a winding little road in the Appalachian range in Garrett County. (You can see the low, gentle mountain slopes out beyond the lavender fields in the photo at the top.) But luckily for the day tripper in the DC-Baltimore metro area, it’s only a few miles off scenic Interstate Route 68 and is easy to find.
I was also fortunate to visit near the height of the blooming season. The owner, Anne Davidson, explained that some varieties had already been harvested, but as you can see, there were more than enough lavender plants in full purple display to enchant me as well as the other guests who dropped by.
The farm and gift shop are open on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Anne said she makes a point of carrying as many locally handmade items as possible, including the apple lavender jelly she prepares, and her sister’s scent pillows and tote bags (shown in the picture at left above). She has rocking chairs set out on the front porch of the gift barn so you can sit and enjoy the lovely view and sip her lavender-infused lemonade.
I was amazed at the number of kinds of lavenders–different colors from deep purple to soft lilac to even white. And different growing habits too, from short, almost straight-stemmed varieties to tall, graceful ones with spikes that seem to sweep out and reach for the sun. One thing they all had in common–they smelled spicy-sweet and attracted bees.
Lavender Limoncello is best made with fresh lavender flower heads. Just tuck some in along with the lemon peels and let them steep in the alcohol for a week. (It’s hard to wait, but at least give your brew five or six days.) Once you’ve readied the sugar syrup and finished making the liqueur, keep it stashed in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Then it will be ready whenever you’re in the mood to treat yourself or guests.
This limoncello recipe is adapted from one I brought back from the Amalfi coast of Italy. The original recipe and more details on how the Italians enjoy the liqueur are here.
- 5 or 6 well-washed, then dried lemons
- 7 or 8 fresh lavender flower heads
- ½ liter (about 1 pint) unflavored vodka
- 300-350 grams (about 1 ½ to 1⅔ cups) granulated sugar
- Generous ½ liter (2 to 2½ cups) spring water, use smaller amount for a very potent limoncello
- Peel the yellow part of the peels from the lemons using a sharp peeler; be careful to remove only the thin layer of yellow and not the white pith underneath (it’s bitter). Combine the strips of peel, lavender, and the vodka in a large jar or other non-reactive container. Be sure the peels and lavender are covered with vodka. Cover and set aside in a cool spot for at least 1 week and longer for an even more pronounced lemon and lavender flavor.
- Combine the sugar and water in a medium nonreactive pot or saucepan. Stir until the sugar is just incorporated over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and let the mixture boil gently, covered and without stirring, for 10 minutes. Let cool. Strain the infused vodka mixture through a sieve into the sugar syrup, stirring just to blend the two; discard the lemon peels and lavender. Transfer the limoncello to a large measuring cup or pitcher. Pour it into sturdy storage bottles; stopper with corks. Store in a cool spot or, better yet, the refrigerator.
- Chill the limoncello in a very cold refrigerator or freezer until ice cold before serving. It’s traditional to serve it serve straight up in chilled vodka or shot glasses.
Other recipes you may like: Lavender Buttercream Frosting/Filling for cookies and macaroons. Or learn more about lavender and make a Lavender Blackberry Syrup for fruit, berries or ice cream.