If I had to name the produce that most embodies summer to me, tomatoes and lavender would be both at the top of that list. Not only because they need the summer sunshine to thrive and mature to their delicious, deep red and purple colors, but also because growing, tending and harvesting them is a full-body experience: their fragrance and aroma as you work with the plants rub into your hands and arms and body, and the smell of tomato and lavender on my skin and in my hair means summer to me.
I started harvesting lavender today, and will continue for a few days. I cut the blossoms early in the morning, before the bees are out, and before it's too hot, then tie them in small bunches, and hang them blossoms-down in the barn to dry. In previous years, I just made a big bundle of all of my lavender, and let it dry in the house, where we could see and enjoy it, and smell its fragrance from the moment it was freshly cut.
This year I'm leaving it to dry out in the barn, a dark and well-ventilated space, as I'm trying to find a way to preserve not just the smell but the colors as well: the beautiful blue-purple of the blossoms, and the bright green of the stems, which in years past have always faded to a not-so-lovely, uniform beige. The fragrance and the colors of summer lavender in our house in the wintertime? Yes, please! (I hope this new method works!)