What is the fascination with lavender and why do we celebrate it? The purple colored ornamental flower has been used as a herb, for ages. How far back? To the beginning of time? Here’s a quick rundown on the amazing and ageless plant.
Lavender, which technically is called Lavandula, is a part of the mint family. Personally, I know of these plants having grown mint as a guard of the vegetable garden since it discourages pest – they are invasive though. The lavender isn’t as invasive and brings in beneficial insects while turning away unwanted pests. In fact, grow them around fruit trees, because they attract good bugs and deter the bad ones. The plants are usually perennial, so you plant and leave them – although they do need trimmed in late winter or early spring. Once established, they grow for years with little care.
The name comes from the Latin word lavare which means ‘to wash’. The plant supposedly originated in the Middle East around the Mediterranean region, which may be why it does so well here in California. The plants can take harsh dry heat in the summer, yet withstand frost in the winter. Lavender is sometimes considered a drought tolerant plant and you can find it growing in the wild on the Central Coast of California.
As most of us know, the lavender fragrance is one of its biggest attractions. However, most importantly, the oils from this potent herb have been utilized since the beginning of time and later found their way into the Bible when Mary Magdalene cleaned Jesus’ feet. The medicinal uses of lavender’s antimicrobial essential oils are legendary. In China, it is utilized for almost anything to do with medical use due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
The popularity of its essence is used for soothing herbal baths and the aroma has been said to be an aphrodisiac. Another use of lavender is as an insecticidal along with deodorant and disinfectant – potpourri has plenty of lavender in them. Part of the liquid generated from the plant is about one third of a type of alcohol that is non-toxic to humans, yet an antiseptic, but repels bugs such as mosquitoes and lice.
Still, its properties allow chefs around the world to flavor their dishes with both a great flavor and scent. Now, folks add lavender to enhance vinegars, honey and a host of other foods and fares. Far-reaching eats and drinks can be found with lavender including cookies and margaritas.
There are countless uses for lavender. And to help feature the soothing miracle herb, there are lavender events all-around the United States and many of them are here in California. They often will have exhibits featuring how the plants are cultivated and dried, along with how the oils are extracted.
Come see the magical herb
One of the fastest growing purple-shaded events is the Lavender Festival presented by the Paso Robles Main Street Association and the Central Coast Lavender Association. The annual celebration is located at the City Park in Downtown Paso Robles. This year you can enjoy the festivities on the second Saturday of July between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm.
There are a plethora of lavender products and along with them, the associated arts and craft products you see at any Central Coast fair, including wine barrels and half wine barrels. Come on out and have fun finding out the wonders of lavender. As always, Downtown Paso is filled with gourmet restaurants and of course dozens and dozens of tasting rooms.
Daryle W. Hier