Lavender is believed to aid a multitude of problems, including stress, anxiety, headaches, insomnia, depression, colds, upset stomach and nervousness. Its intoxicating scent can be distilled into essential oil and used as perfume or used medicinally when inhaled to induce relaxation and sleep and ease stress. As a culinary herb, the scent and taste will transform the most ordinary dish into the extraordinary. Because of its unique flavour, the addition of lavender adds a certain mystique, and visually, it’s just so darn pretty.
A recent visit to the Okanagan Lavender & Herb Farm certainly left me feeling happy and inspired. Owner Andrea McFadden and her husband David have created a beautiful oasis on their lake-view property.
Strolling through the gardens, one is pleasantly assaulted with the heady fragrance of the lavender as well as picking up notes of lemon balm and other herbs.
I recently attended a yoga class there, on the grass, surrounded with the heady aroma of lavender, and it was utterly blissful. Talk about a Zen experience. Andrea’s cousin Kate Stewart teaches the classes Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 8 a.m. Ommmmmg, you will love it.
Andrea is a great ambassador of flower power and has created a wide range of products in her production kitchen. From herbal blends like the famous Herbs de Provence (a must on roasted chicken), to distilled lavender essential oil (when added to whipped cream and served atop local, fresh berries — especially big blackberries — makes for a memorable dessert). I love the lavender dryer bags that scent your clothing and the spritzers of rosewater blended with witch hazel and distilled water making a perfect facial toner.
Andrea also distills roses into rosewater, which is both a beauty product as well as culinary ingredient — even for cocktails. Our local mixologist champ, liquid chef Gerry Jobe at RauDZ Regional Table, recently purchased some of their rosewater for his creative cocktail recipes.
Andrea also gives a lot back to the community through education. As daughter of pioneer winery owner Dick Stewart of Quails’ Gate Winery, Andrea has farming in her soul. She loves to host children’s workshops and introduce them to exciting new flavours and “teach them where food comes from.”
“I want them to learn something useful and easy,” such as showing them how to make a salad dressing or tea. Andrea says that the children get very excited tasting the result of fresh mint infused in water.
The Okanagan Lavender & Herb Farm’s Garden to Table Program is something they also do very well there. Andrea and staff begin with a farm tour, first educating guests about the flowers and herbs grown there and then they are encouraged to pick some before leading the class to the production room to make infused vinegar. The program encourages people to “learn about gardening” and about the power of herbs as seasoning.
Andrea has also developed recipe cards with packages of the herb mixtures attached and says it is to “educate people on new tastes.” All in all, the entire experience at The Lavender Farm is a delicious sensory experience. www.okanaganlavender.com.
Jennifer Schell is the editor of B.C. Food and Wine Trails magazine.