Years ago, in another life on the west side of the Cascades, we had a very rainy growing season. I purchased a flat of strawberries to make jam, but the berries were watery and tasteless. Determined not to waste them, I picked my lavender, put the heads into sugar the night before and hoped for the best. It was a tremendous success; those jars of jam were gone by Halloween.
This growing season began as a very cool and wet season, similar to that one long ago. As I live in the high desert now and not the rainy west slope as I did, I have more lavender than ever. Recently I cut the first harvest for this year. With equal anticipation, I put the heads and stems in sugar, placed them in a dry, dark place and hoped for the best. When I tried to dump the sugar there was so much lavender oil it came out in clumps. Wow, did it smell good! I have spread it out to see if these large sugar cubes will dry enough for me to crush them and put them away for later use. Although, some may have to be used in lavender lemonade. Right now our temperature is in the mid-eighties, anticipating several more degrees before we begin to cool off again. Perfect weather for a refreshing glass!
I also kept some of the spearmint, harvested last week, but most of the plant is going into the compost as I know I will have another bunch just as dense at the end of August to harvest again. It and half of the first cutting of lavender are being dehydrated for later use. It is lovely to catch a whiff while passing the room they are in. We have not made Mojito’s yet this year, maybe some simple mint syrup is due to be made and a lime put on the grocery list. Ah, summer and all of the pleasures to be had.
Up on the deck, in a container, is my rosemary. In my garden of long ago I had two rosemary plants in my kitchen garden. They were two inch pots when I purchased them, when we moved five years later they were each six foot tall, six foot diameter shrubs with the most heavenly blue flowers in spring. When I planted rosemary in Ellensburg it didn’t make it through the winter; this was attempted three times before I decided to stop murdering rosemary plants. Now that I have the sun room to winter over my plants, I am attempting to grow it again. This plant is now a year old, but it isn’t as vigorous as I would like it to be.
My newest acquisition this year is a stevia plant in a container on the deck as well. Some of the first leaves were dried to see if growing my own sweetener was practical. From the little I tried in my tea, this is going to be a good thing. Bruising the fresh leaves adds less sweetener than I anticipated, but it is still a viable option for use. I have potted it in a large enough container that I should be able to over winter it in the sun room, along with the tuberous begonias, rosemary and pelargoniums. It gives me great pleasure to successfully maintain the sensitive plants through the winter and enjoy them in their glory the next season.