Thursday, July 2, 2009

PA Lavendar Festival

Two Saturdays ago I spent a lovely afternoon at the Pennsylvania Lavendar Festival in Fairfield. The skies looked ominous but I have been planning on going to this festival for months after I read a NY Times article about lavendar fields throughout the U.S.

The Willow Pond Farm is the host of an annual lavendar festival where you will find more than 2 acres of beautiful and wonderfully fragrant lavendar plants of over 100 varieties. The festival offered pick-your-own lavendar, workshops on lavendar and other herbs, cooking demonstrations, lavendar-related shopping, a plant shop, and most importantly, lavendar-infused foods such as lavendar blondies and lavendar lemonade. Bruster's Ice Cream was also there offering some delicious dark chocolate lavendar ice cream that was absolutely decadent.. the calming scent of lavendar with the rich flavor of dark chocolate... that's a great Saturday afternoon!

Everyone picking their lavendar.

Perfectly straight rows of lavendar.

After picking a handful of lavendar in a refreshing rain shower and sampling some lemonade, I attended the herbal tea workshop instructed by a master gardener at Penn State. For 90 minutes we talked about growing an herb garden, drying herbs, recipes for teas, and sampled 5 different herbal 'teas'. I put teas in quotes because we call it herbal tea but it actually contains none of the tea plant, camellia sinensis, but simply dried herbs steeped in boiling water so it's not technically tea.

The 5 teas we tried were fennel, ginger, lavendar, lemon verbena and peppermint. I was a big fan of the lavendar and peppermint. The ginger was just too overpowering.

We got samples of the dried herbs each tea was made from to taste and smell before we tried the tea: fennel seeds, ginger root, lavendar flowers, lemon verbena leaves, and peppermint leaves.

The tea was stored in mason jars for our sampling.

A recipe for herbal teas:

Put 1/3 cup dried herb in a big Pyrex measuring cup. Add 1 quart boiling water. Steep for 7 minutes. Put a fine strainer over a mason jar and pour tea through strainer into jar. Add sugar if desired. Let cool and refrigerate.

I bought lots of lavendar so I will definitely be making a lavendar brew soon! I also bought a lavendar plant and a stevia plant, which are both thriving well in their respective pots on the porch. As a side, stevia is a south American plant used as a sweetener. It was just approved by the FDA and is used in the sweetner Truvia. I still have to figure out how I will use my plant.

I will definitely be going back to the festival next year, if not before to visit Willow Pond!

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