Lavender, the “blue gold” of Provence! Did you know that from the end of June to the end of August, the summer months of Provence are the best time to experience the world of lavender? The fields are in full bloom starting in June and the air is perfumed as the hot Mediterranean sun bakes the plants and releases their perfume.
I imagine a flyover of a lavender field would look something like this: a sea of different shades of blue colors dancing in the breeze.
Lavender is actually a member of the mint family with over 39 different varieties from deep blue-violet to white blooms. Southern France provides the perfect growing conditions with its sandy, rocky soil, hot humid summers, cool or cold nights and high altitudes. Lavender is also quite easy to grow once the plant is established. It requires very little care.
Some believe that around 600 BC a group of traders from a Greek outpost on the French island of Les lles d’Hyeres brought the plants to the mainland. Others tell us that over 2500 years ago the ancient Egyptians were the first to use the plants for mummification of their loved ones, but most likely it was the Romans who brought lavender plants to Provence.
Romans, as we know, were bath enthusiasts and regularly added lavender products to their bath water. They were skilled at extracting the essential oils from the plants to add to soaps, candles, foods and medicinal herbs. In fact, the very word “lavender” comes from the Latin word “Lavare,” translated as “to wash.”
As stated before, there are numerous different varieties of lavender grown around the world today. Most are hybrids from the original plants. Provence grows three main varieties of lavender: Lavandula Augustifolia Mill or “real” lavender, Lavende Fine or “fine” and lastly, Lavandin a hybrid that grows at a lower altitude than the 2 previously mentioned plants.
Generally, early in June you will find plants blooming in the Rhone Valley, but by the end of August, on the Cote d’Azur, all the fields are completely cut and the harvest has ended. In Haute Provence, the fields in June are still blooming and the harvest has not started.
Remember, climate conditions during the months before the blooming season will always affect the timing of the growing and harvest season. All the departments (regions) do not bloom at the same time. Make sure you do your homework before you leave home if you plan on going to the lavender fields.
There are four main growing departments in Southern France to have a memorable lavender experience:
Besides that heavenly scent, lavender has many other virtues. It can repel insects as a natural repellent when outside or in a closet inside. It has for hundreds of years been used as an antiseptic and has properties as an anti-inflammatory (always consult with your doctor before using).
It can relieve itching from a bug bite and some believe helps speed up the healing of a scar. Let us not forget its ability to help with sleep and lastly, today we are even using it in food preparation.
Be aware that during lavender season in Southern France you will not be alone. One must get up early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Many brides even plan their weddings years in advance to have their photo op in the lavender fields.
There will be heavy traffic with many tour buses and there will be bees buzzing around the fields. But I can guarantee you will have the experience of a lifetime!
Have you already had the experience of visiting the lavender fields in Provence? If so, what month did you go? If Provence is too far away, where do you go to enjoy the lavender blooming? What do you use lavender for? Which of its properties are the most beneficial to you? Please share with the community!