Among other small wonders, there’s an organic lavender field growing on Governors Island. To get to the ice-cream cone shaped island our family takes the ferry from Red Hook/Atlantic Basin. The boat spends more time turning around in the basin than it does crossing the channel to the island, but even a few minutes on the breezy river in the heat of New York City summers is welcome. The Governors Island ferries are free before noon on the weekends and the carless roads are perfect for family biking so in the summertime we make the trip as often as we can.
By mid-June the silvery green lavender mounds are an explosion of purple. The field is a project of the non-profit Earth Matter and an attempt at cultivating a habitat for pollinators and a healing community space for us humans. On Sundays in June and July the organization invites folks to join them in harvesting and for a small fee guests can bring home a bundle of their own and so a few weeks ago we jumped at the chance. Our bundle been’s drying upside down in our apartment since then and late last week I removed the flowers from the stems and made a batch of fragrant lavender simple syrup for adding to summer sodas or drizzling over bowls of strawberries. In case you’d like a little something flowery to add to summer cocktails or fold into whipped cream, here’s the how-to, plus a few tips on drying and storing lavender.
Lavender Simple Syrup
+ 1/4 cup dried lavender blossoms (preferably culinary lavender that’s been grown organically)
+ 1/2 cup water
+ 1/2 cup sugar (granulated sugar will get you a syrup with a slightly purple tinge while cane sugar, like I used here, makes a decidedly more caramel colored syrup that largely masks the purple from the lavender).
+ Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil until the sugar is entirely dissolved.
+ Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and add lavender blossoms, stirring to fully submerge.
+ Remove the mixture from the heat and allow the flowers to steep in the warm syrup for ~20 minutes or so.
+ Strain the syrup through a sieve and store in the refrigerator.
Notes on drying your own lavender:
If you dry your own lavender, be mindful that lavender flowers should be thoroughly dried before you remove them from their stems. To test readiness, snap a stem in half. If it snaps easily, you’re ready to remove the blossoms. If the stem is supple and resists snapping, let the flowers dry for awhile longer.
To remove the lavender from the stems, an easy method is to wrap the bundle in a clean dishtowel and roll the dried bundle back and forth beneath your palms. The flowers will roll off their brittle stems and into the towel where you can transfer them into a jar for storage.
For the curious:
+ More about the Earth Matter lavender farm.