Product Profile: Lavender

Lavender calls to mind images of the South of France and the Mediterranean, but this versatile, aromatic flower is also a growing commercial crop in Ontario. The sandy soils of Norfolk County are particularly good for lavender.

Former tobacco farmers Steve and Anita Buehner are committed to exploring the crop’s diverse possibilities on their farm, Bonnieheath Lavender.

The Buehners started experimenting with lavender in 2003 and today they are propagating and growing their own varieties, specially selected and adapted for the unique conditions on their farm. The Buehners also process their lavender, drying it and extracting essential oils, which are available in an on-farm seasonal retail store, located just a few minutes south of Waterford, Ontario. You can find bundles of lavender, sachets, essential oils, and soaps, , lavender honey, as well as lavender-apple and lavender-grape jellies, made with fruit from the farm’s orchards and small vineyard.

Lavender is widely known for its aromatherapy and cosmetic uses, with a famously calming aroma, but the flower also has a number of culinary uses, as it lends a delicate and sophisticated flavour to a variety of dishes. One classic use from the south of France is in the famous herb mix known as “Herbes de Provence”.  Lavender can also be added to jams, ice creams, teas, and wines, as well as savoury dishes like soups and stews.

The fragrant fields and the beautiful woodlots and wetlands on Bonnieheath Lavender, restored under the Norfolk ALUS pilot project, present another opportunity:  they provide a perfect setting for wedding photographs. The Buehners have set their crop up to be especially stunning, planting the lavender in a “sun” pattern with rows of multi-hued lavender radiating from a central gazebo.

As farmers in Ontario work to diversify their production and discover new, unique crops, Anita believes there is room to grow the market for lavender in Ontario. In her position as the Chair of the Board of the Ontario Lavender Association  she is working to introduce new growers to this crop and develop local demand. Ontario consumes a significant amount of lavender and lavender oil today, but almost all of this is currently being imported. Still, with about 25 lavender growers in the Association, this is changing rapidly. As a hardy and multi-purposed plant it provides many opportunities for growers, not to mention the delicious opportunities for consumers!

Blueberry Lavender Smoothie – Anita Buehner, Bonnieheath Lavender

Prep Time: 5 minutes

125 ml (½ cup) ice

125 ml (½ cup) low fat milk (or orange juice, lemonade)

125 ml (½ cup) plain yogurt

250 ml (1 cup) fresh or frozen blueberries

5 ml (1 tsp) lavender buds (or to taste)

15 ml (1 Tbsp) honey (or to taste)

Blend ingredients together in blender or food processor until smooth.

Serve garnished with fresh lavender sprigs and savour.

- Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation