We are now in July whereby the lavender are ready to be harvested. The producers observe their flowers to gauge their maturity and then fix a date for the harvest ‘campaign’. Fields that are situated in the low altitude have been cut since a couple of weeks ago. All the local producers are at their busiest time of the year. Tractors are now out every day harvesting the lavender which is ready.
The flowers are then left in the fields for 2 – 3 days to dry before transporting them to the distillery. If rain does not interrupt their work, the harvest campaign will last over 15 days. Extra manpower is recruited to work in the distillery. The process is still much manhandled like in the old days. No automation.
The maturity of the lavender in the higher altitude is always around late July. One of the biggest lavender growing area in Provence is around the Plateau d’Albion which is bordered by the department of Vaucluse, Drôme et Alpes-de-Haute- Provence. Surrounded by the Mt Ventoux the highest mountain in Provence and the chain of Lure mountains, this area has the idea terroir for the lavender and spelt agriculture that dates back centuries ago.
Situated at an altitude of about 765m, Sault (which name means ‘mountainous and wooden place’ in Latin) is a village of about 1,400 inhabitants (2,800 in the year 1850) and is named as the capital of lavender. We can visit many picturesque villages like Simiane-la-Rotonde, Aurel, Saint-Christol, Banon etc. The Lavender Museum of Coustellet has their property there; Château du Bois in the commune of Lagarde-d’Apt.
It’s an experience to come and visit now, as we are able to share the highlights of the distillation process by the local producers.