I know many people associate the smell as somewhat “old fashioned” or “Granny-ish”, but I absolutely love the smell of lavender. That deep, intoxicating scent that fills your nostrils and for me, instantly transports my mind to a quintessential English country garden in spring.
This love of lavender lead to me planting my own little lavender hedge in my allotment last year. I purchased 5 small plants from a large retail chain and carefully planted them out as a little division between the “productive” area of my allotment (where I grow the fruit & veg) and the “relaxing” area (where I have my flower patch and pond).
As well as creating a division between the two areas of my allotment, I was hoping that the lavender would do a grand job of attracting bees to my plot and I was also looking forward to enjoying both the sight and smell of the lavender once it was fully established and ready to assault my senses. Other than this, I didn’t really have any other plans for the lavender. It was definitely purchased predominantly to provide me with something aesthetically pleasing to look at and for the bees to enjoy.
I am pleased to confirm that on both the above counts the lavender performed perfectly. We are a year on from me planting it out and the plants have established themselves fantastically and are growing brilliantly well. Every time I brush past it or water it, it rewards me with that beautiful scent and the bees adore it. I sat by it just last week watching the bees and I lost count of how many of them I saw buzzing excitedly around those deep, purple flowers.
However, just recently I have been developing an interest in the idea of making more homemade products, such as soaps and creams. I am certainly not adverse to a shop bought product, but I do love the idea and the chemistry behind creating my own cosmetic items (science was one of my favourite subjects at school and it turns out I am still harbouring that love now!) The idea that you can take a few basic ingredients, some infused oils and perhaps a handful of crushed flower heads and combine them in such a way that they change their form and become something useful such as a bar of soap or body cream fascinates me.
So, I have decided to branch out and start trying a few basic recipes, just to see what happens! Naturally, if possible I want to incorporate as many home grown ingredients as possible into my recipes. Some of the obvious herbs to grow for this will be chamomile and calendula and I already have some seeds of these ready to go! I am clearing an area of my allotment to try and create a little herb garden and I am reading up as much as possible on herb care and the best plants to grow.
Of course, all of this takes time and I am not the most patient person! I want to be creating NOW! This is where the lavender comes back into play. I have 5 fully established, flowering plants, so it would be a crime against gardening to not utilise them. I am not going to rush into anything too difficult just yet, but what I have done is created an infused lavender oil which I am planning on using to create a lavender body balm.
In this blog post today, I will be showing you how I created the infused oil and talking you through the different steps involved. It is incredibly straight forward really and thoroughly enjoyable to do! I will be creating the lavender body balm in a week or two and will pop up another blog post showing how to do that as well. To create the infused oil (if using fresh lavender) does take around 4 weeks from start to finish and so it is a good idea to plan ahead with this recipe!
To begin with, here are a list of the ingredients and equipment that you will need to make this oil in the same way that I did:
- Fresh lavender sprigs (you can substitute dried lavender if you don’t have access to fresh)
- Olive Oil (or a similar base oil such as sweet almond oil)
- A clean, sterile jar with lid
- Paper bag
- Muslin or cheesecloth
- Bottle for storing the finished oil
*If you are using lavender that has already been dried, then you can skip steps one and two and move straight ahead to step three.*
- Step One:
The first thing that I had to do was gather my lavender. I carefully studied my plants and using a pair of scissors, snipped the best sprigs from my plants. I was looking for stems where the flowers were just starting to open, as these are the best ones to use. I cut them approximately 6″ (15cm) in length and gathered a handful together. There were no hard and fast rules that I had read about how much lavender to gather and so I went with my own judgement and trimmed approximately 20 sprigs from the plants.
I tied the sprigs loosely together and took them home for drying out. It is important to dry the lavender thoroughly before using it in oils as this reduces the chance of it spoiling. To dry it out, hang it upside down in a cool, dark place, preferably one with a slight breeze for two weeks. I chose an upstairs cupboard as although it was not especially breezy, it was cool and dark and was the best place available in my home.
- Step Two:
After two weeks your lavender should be dry and crispy and ready for breaking up. Gently crumble the lavender apart, using your fingers to open up the buds.
- Step Three:
You now need to pop the lavender into your dry, clean, sterile jar. If you are unsure how to sterilise jars there are plenty of guides online that advise on how to do this safely. Please don’t skip sterilising the jar as it is important to do this to ensure that the jar is properly clean and that there are no nasty bugs or bacteria lurking in it ready to spoil your oil!
Take your oil and pour it over your lavender. Make sure that the oil completely covers all of your lavender – any exposed pieces of lavender are at risk or spoiling or going mouldy, which you definitely do not want. When filling the jar with oil do leave a gap of approximately one inch at the top of the jar as this allows for expansion.
- Step Four:
Now it is time to play the waiting game again! You will need to leave your lavender oil to infuse for another two weeks. The best place to leave your jar is on a warm, sunny windowsill. If you are using a dark jar then you can simply place it straight onto the windowsill. If you are using a light or clear bottle then place this into a paper bag before popping the whole bag onto the windowsill.
- Step Five:
After two weeks your oil is ready for straining into its final bottle. Filter your oil into a bottle or jar through a piece of muslin or cheesecloth placed in a funnel. Discard the leftover lavender flowers/stalks and you should be left with your sweet smelling, infused oil.
Store the oil in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight as sunlight can break down the oil. If it is kept in a cool, dark place this will greatly increase the shelf life and your oil should keep for a few months.
You can use your oil as it is or use it as an ingredient in other beauty items. I will be using mine in a body cream and I will pop the recipe up on this blog once I have created it.
I am really happy with how my lavender oil has turned out. It was my first venture into creating infused oils and it has been fun, informative and, even more importantly, successful! I can’t wait to experiment with other oils, balms and creams to see what else I can create – I feel like a modern day wizard creating potions and ointments!