The Stills and the Distillation Process

It is important to distill when the flowers are at their optimim maturity. The freshly-cut lavender is left to dry for a couple of days in the fields prior bringing to the distillery.

lavande-ardeche-03
The steam distillation is the best way to achieve a quality essential oil and steam must not be hotter than 100°C. It takes about 130 kilos of fine lavender flowers and only about 40 kilos of lavandin to make one litre of essential oil. image 2
The whole stalk of flowers are tightly packed into a vessel leaving no air pockets in between them. The stills use a pressure gauge. The boiler which runs on recycled distilled lavender heats up the still. The pressurized steam rises, and this steam carries off the essence of the flower. The steam-essence mixture rises through the goose-neck condensation tube, called “col-de-cygne” (which means ‘swan neck’) where it cools off and becomes liquid.

image 1
The liquid mixture goes into a separator (in French – a “vase florentin”, or Florentine flask) where it settles. The essential oil rises to the top, for it is lighter than water. The essence-infused water remains at the bottom for it is heavier than the oil. The separator has two taps – the one at the top to draw off the essential oil, and the lower tap to draw off the distilled water, also known as hydrosol, a therapeutic by-product of distillation. This floral water can be used in cosmetics and for certain therapeutic treatments.

alambic-pour-produire-de-l-essence-de-lavande-marseille
The Lavender Museum exhibits a collection of stills that dates from the 17th century. It shows a film explaining the harvest and distillation process and during the lavender season, there will be a demonstration as well.    musee de la lavande

 

 

 

The lavender harvest begins usually from mid July to mid August.

A Romantic Getaway

How about treating yourself and your loved one to a getaway in the Capital of lavender. Why not include a lavender tour with a 2 nights stay at a 4* hotel in Sault?

sault_village_1

You will begin with a visit to the Lavender Museum. Here, you will learn about the lavender agriculture and the distillation process for the essentiel oil. Enjoy the beautiful landscape of the Luberon valley and its perched villages.

Gordes 3

After a panoramic photo stop in the village of Gordes, you will be driven to the capital of lavender, Sault whereby you will enjoy the beauty of the symbol of Provence.

hostellerie-du-valUp in the mountains, you will breathe in the fresh clear air, the scent of the lavender. Relax at a 4* hotel with a ‘Lavender dinner’ on the first night.

The following day, you may enjoy different outdoor activities. By bicycle, on horseback or on foot, you can take the discovery trails through the mountain area. For the more adventurous, you may want to try canyoning, climbing or paragliding from the heights of Mont Ventoux, the tallest mountain in Provence at 1,912m.

velo mt ventoux

Admire more lavender fields along the way and local distiller. lavande

hostellerie 1The hotel has facilities like indoor and outdoor jet-stream pools, gym, tennis court and a nearby thermal spa whereby you can treat yourself to a relaxing massage.

If you have more free time, then explore the village of Sault and try out the local products of lavender honey, nougats, lavender ice-cream. If you need gifts to make to family and friends back home, then you may want to shop for the lavender essentiel oil, sachets and bouquets of flowers, soaps, etc.sault-4
Pick up and drop off at Avignon train station will be provided.

Find the details of this package …

 

The Capital of Lavender – Sault

Situated at an altitude of 765 m above sea level, east of Mount Ventoux and northeast of the Vaucluse mountains, it lies on the Albion plateau. Sault is a charming and pleasant village of around 1,350 inhabitants. Its principal economy is agriculture of lavender and wheat.Sault village 2

Thanks to its limestone , rocky soil type, lavender grows wildly in abundance on these plateaus where no other plants would flourish. While the whole Mediterranean Basin shares the olives, lavender is the unique mark of this region.

Provence-FranceSault has been cultivating the fine lavender for centuries and the hybrid lavender ‘lavandin’ since the early 20th century. The huge blue fields spread around the village and its plateau alternating with fields of wheat, offer to the visitors a breathtaking landscape. Do not forget your camera !

If you come during the harvest season, you may want to visit the local distillery and witness first- hand the distillation process of the lavender essential oil and its medicinal virtues.
Besides lavender, Sault offers visitors a variety of activities that allow you to appreciate the natural environment: starting point for the ascent of Mont Ventoux by bicycle, horseback riding, hiking, etc.

NougatFinally do not leave without tasting its locally produced nougat, macaroons and lavender honey. Don’t miss the lavender ice cream too! lavender ice creamAll guaranteed 100% natural and 100% delicious!

 

 

fete de lavande

For 30 years now, on the 15th August, Sault organises a lavender festival to celebrate the end of the season harvest. The highlight is the lavender cutting competition by the tradition way; the sickle. concours de lavandeTradition costumes are worn, there will be folk dancing, music, sale of locally produced potterywares, honey, soaps and of course lavender essential oil.

Don’t miss the traditional provençal market which is held every Wednesday morning since the year 1515.

Join our lavender excursions to enjoy the sights and scents of these lovely flowers starting from 5 June to 15 August 2016.sault04

LAVENDER RECEIPE

Creme-brulee-a-la-lavande-Variante-au-romarin_recette_full

Lavender is best known for its fragrant, delicate Provencal appearance in soaps, sachets, essential oil and other body care products.  But as mentioned in the earlier article, it can be used in culinary.
When cooking with lavender it is key to ensure using culinary/edible lavender and not lavender prepared for things like potpourri which can be treated with chemicals. images

Culinary lavender may be purchased at well stocked grocery stores. With a small amount added to many recipes, a simple dish can be elevated to having international flair!
Being particularly compatible with the flavors of honey and lemon, lavender is a perfect summertime herb to brighten seasonal foods.  Here is one of a dessert receipe to share :  Lavender Creme Brulée
Ingredients
2 vanilla pods
400 ml semi-skimmed cream
400 ml single cream
8 large free-range yolks
100 g sugar
15g culinary lavender flowers
50g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 100°C. Score the vanilla pods lengthways and scrape out the vanilla seeds with a knife or a teaspoon. Place the seeds into a saucepan, add the pods, cream and milk as well as the lavender flowers and slowly bring to the boil. Remove from the heat.

images2

 

 

Meanwhile, beat together the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Pour the filtered milk and cream to the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Cook the mixture for 5 minutes in a bain-marie, stirring often, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

images4

Remove any bubbles or froth from the mixture before dividing it between your ramekins. . Place carefully in the preheated oven and cook for 40 minutes or until the mixture has set but is still slightly wobbly in the centre. Allow to cool at room temperature then place in the fridge until ready.

Sprinkle the brown sugar and caramelize with a kitchen blowtorch. Serve immediately.

Come to enjoy the Blue Gold of Provence :images1

http://www.provence-reservation.com

How to use lavender in cooking

We are used to seeing lavender as in essential oil, in many beauty and body care products or used to fragrance the house and linen but did you know that you could consume it? Here are some tips for the proper use of lavender in cooking.

culinary-lavender-15gTMB

It is very trendy for some years now: edible flowers. Lavender is one of them. It is a seasonal flower and is a member of the mint herb family. It is known for its gourmet chefs virtues. Though the leaves and stems of lavender plants can be used for culinary purposes, the flowers particularly give dishes a subtly sweet, citrus flavor. Some precautions to bear in mind. Use the lavender sparingly, as the taste can be quite strong.

Lavender Bouquet

201404-xl-roast-leg-of-lamb-with-rosemary-and-lavender

For starters, use a few sprigs of lavender with a salad and / or goat cheese.Goes well with dishes cooked with lamb, pork and even chicken. For desserts, lavender will accompany perfectly – in puddings, crème brûlée, and frosting a cupcake for example.

Lavender-Cupcake

Lavender can be used to add flavor and color to culinary recipes in either fresh or dried form.To dry lavender for culinary use, snip the stems off the plant just after the flowers have opened and hang the stems upside down or lay them flat to dry. Wash the buds well, then dry-roast them to remove some of the floral taste or grind them in a coffee grinder to improve the texture. You can also make lavender-infused sugar for baking and swap it out for regular sugar in your favorite recipes.

culinary_100g2_2048x2048

Come to Provence and experience the beauty and flavors of this extraordinary flower. You can buy culinary lavender in many shops.

Book your lavender tours http://www.provence-reservation.com

Do you know that the lavender producers in Provence are confronting to a big threat ?

Listed a French patrimony, symbol of Provence, lavender is the principal force of agricultural ecosystem, economic and touristique for the region of the Provence Alps Cote d’Azur. It is today in great danger. As beautiful and fragrant as it seems, little do we know that the plants are facing a serious problem.

24hrt13a3f1

For twenty years, the cultivation of lavender in Provence faces two problems:

° Phytoplasma withering, a micro bacteria transmitted by a leafhopper

deper_cicadelle1
° Global warming and occasional droughts

Carried by a mini-cicada, leafhoppers, stolbur phytoplasma represents a serious health problem for the lavender growers. This micro-bacteria agglutinate in the vessels of the plant and eventually atrophy in two or three years. Farmers are forced to pull out a part of their production. The use of pesticides is not possible due to surrounding beekeeping activities. Rucher_lavande

Global warming led to frequent droughts that have particularly marked the year 2000. In 2003, 2006 and especially 2007, Provence has suffered from the weather, and despite a rainfall rising in recent years, the lavender fields will not last more than 10 years under current conditions.

In fact, France used to be the world’s largest producer of the lavender essential oil. However, since 2010-2011, Bulgaria had taken over the title.  On a worldwide level, there’s a substantive shortfall of lavender essential oil production by half in the last 10 years. In France, the production of 85 tons of lavender essential oil has dropped to 30 tons.

Researchers and scientists and farmers are working hand in hand to overcome this major problem.

Nevertheless, in Provence, there are still plenty of lavender fields of us to visit, see, smell …

http://www.provence-reservation.com

An idea for a DIY christmas present from Provence …

FUSEAUX DE LAVANDE



When you visit Provence, you will notice these lovely and fragrant small lavender bouquets expertly weaved with colourful ribbons to make, what we call ‘Fuseaux de Lavande’. A local tradition that dates back since the 18th century, it’s used as a present to the fiancée or bride to scent and preserve her trousseau. Whether as a gift to your loved ones, to perfume your wardrobes, drawers, suitcases or hang as Christmas ornaments, the spindle is one of the souvenirs to bring back home.

If you do grow lavender plants back home, you may want to try and make them yourself. Herewith are some step to step instructions on how to create a ‘Fuseaux de Lavande’ :

In Provence, we make this spindle with sprigs of fresh lavender, Select 30 sprigs of lavender. Cut the stems of about 30cm. Get rid of leaves and lavender grains which do not belong to the main flower.

Lavender christmas gift

Take the ribbon and tie the flowers tightly, leaving a length of about one meter fifty and a shorter length of fifty centimeters

lavender arts & crafts

Then fold the flowers carefully without breaking the stalks. Place the bouquet head down and gently fold each of lavender, making sure not to break the stems… If lavender is too brittle, soak the stems first.

lavender made it yourself bouquet

Tying together the strands 2 by 2 with small pieces of sewing thread; obtained 15 stems groups.

DIY Provence Lavender

Braiding the ribbon once over the sprigs and next under the sprigs. Be sure to spread the stems. The challenge is to make the first turn, then braiding is simpler.

lavender DIY christmas gift

Tying together the two ribbon ends. Cut the tails of the stems.

Christmas idea gift - lavender spindle

Sedative, soothing, calming – lavender has many natural properties. Also used in perfumery, aromatherapy and medical treatments.

You are invited to book on our website www.provence-reservation.com

Do you know what happens after the lavender flowers are harvested?

We are now in the last trimester of the year. The lavender flowers are all harvested, the distillation of the essential oil is all done but that doesn’t mean that the farmers are taking their holidays.

There’s much work to be done in the lavender fields. The weeding process must begin after the harvest around August as the grass has started to grow since the beginning of June. Then in October, lavender plants that are ten-year old must be pulled up, burnt and then the land must be prepared for March planting by ploughing to aerate the soil. Following in November, this is the time when the seeds are sown in nurseries just before the winter frost sets in. We will have to wait 3 years before we can use these plants for a new plantation. In the winter period from December to February, the ground is frozen, the land are resting and the lavender producers can take their holidays!

champ recolte

Don’t forget the medical virtues of this precious oil especially in the coming winter season, It can be used for colds and sinusitis as it’s know to fight infections. To put a drop on a sugar cube or in a spoonful of honey to relieve sore throats. To relieve stress and for relaxation, you may put a few drops in the bath.

miel

You can plan your holidays now for next summer to admire the symbol of Provence, Lavender.

http://www.provence-reservation.com

Lavender Festival in Sault 2015

This was the end of the blooming period of the lavender fields in Provence on August 15th. Now, if you want to come back next year to see the lavender fields in bloom in Provence, smell its fine perfume and admire its magnificent blue color, you will have to wait until June 05th 2016 !
Every year, the blooming season of the lavender fields ends with the famous Lavender Festival in Sault. This picturesque village of Provence, considered as the lavender capital, has been welcoming for 30 years a traditional festival to celebrate the flower, symbol of Provence. This festival attracts many tourists from all over the world and also many locals.

The entertainments of the festival are available all day long : lavender cutting championship of France with a sickle (event reserved for professionals) and the lavender cutting contest with a sickle (event reserved for amators). All day succeed farandoles happy with Provencal folk groups and all teams dressed in their fragrant strands.There is also the lavender farmers’ market, the products of the farm, a book fair, an exhibition of paintings, village crafts, a horse show and a closing concert. Children are not forgotten with the pony rides program and exhibition of a hive where they explain how the bees allow to create a so tasty lavender honey.

Every year, we drive you in our comfortable minibuses from Avignon, Arles and Aix en Provence, to discover this Lavender Festival on August 15th !

For those who will not be patient enough to wait until next June, the lavender museum is opened all year long (except in January). Our shared minibus tours from Avignon, Aix en Provence, Arles and Marseille can escort you to this charming museum where they share their knowledge with you and explain all the secrets of the lavender : production of essential oil, video about the culture of lavender and the collection of the flowers in August.

See you next year for our 2016 Lavender Tours !

Provence reservation minibuses

FLOWERS OF LAVENDER

For a long time the flowers of lavender came from the region of Mévouillon, near Mont Ventoux (the tallest mountain in Provence 1912 metres), and were recognizable by their deep blue colour and their lasting qualities. Quality flowers, reaped when they are in the early stages of blossoming and dried very quickly, bring sweet smells to the homes of many. We can buy these flowers fresh or dried in bouquets or in provencal cloth sachets often at the farmers’ market in the summer or shops all year round.

IMGP4062

Lavender is a pretty amazing thing to have in your culinary reserve but it can easily veer toward potpourri-town if you’re not careful. No matter what you plan to do with it, make sure to buy “culinary lavender.” Like coconut oil, lavender is produced for uses other than cooking. Culinary lavender is suitable for consumption while ornamental lavender isn’t (necessarily). And while it probably won’t kill you, just buy the stuff that you’re sure is safe to eat. It’s no fun biting into a piece of cake and coming away with a mouthful of leaves. We like to use lavender as an infusion, so either grind it (say, with sugar for baked goods) or strain it out of a liquid (cream or syrup) before using. You’ll still get great lavender flavor without the bits and pieces in your mouth.

huile-de-lavande2
A little goes a long way. If you’re not following a recipe you trust, use lavender sparingly. Its flavor is strong and can easily overwhelm baked goods or savory dishes if you’re heavy-handed. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.
Lavender has a strong flavor, so pair it accordingly with other assertive flavors. In baking, be sure to use a light touch or balance its low notes with something bright like lemon juice and zest.
A few more ideas if this got the creative juices flowing: Infuse simple syrup with a sprinkling of lavender and use to sweeten iced tea, lemonade, or even to flavor meringue. Grind some lavender into sugar and use it in simple butter cookies or infuse cream for lavender-scented whipped or ice cream.

muffins_abricot_et_lavande    

macarons lavende

Lavender is a member of the mint family and is close to rosemary, sage, and thyme. It is best used with fennel, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, and savory. Make your own dry blend of herbs and flowers (we like lavender with mint and rosemary) and rub on lamb chops or chicken wings before grilling. You can even candy the blossoms and use those to garnish.
Though this year, we are in advance of the harvest because of the extremely warm weather, it’s still not too late too see the lavender fields.