Last weekend, I headed on out to the Sequim Lavender Festival. Sequim is about an hour from where I live (crazy geography, looks closer on a map). I often forget that I live in a beautiful place. How easily we get spoiled! I remember when I first moved here how novel it was that I could grow lavender without taking care of it…and without killing it!
Sequim (pronounced like: say “swim”, now add a /k/ and say “skwim”) lies in the Olympic Mountain rain shadow. This means that it rarely rains… except for when you plan to go to the lavender festival one Saturday afternoon. Seriously, it’s like Provence. It rarely rains there, but we have had the world’s worst summer and not even Sequim is immune to the gloom. Sequim is a tiny town, mainly a white people retirement community with a few meth labs here and there (proving that no place is free of those). However, Sequim isn’t just another tiny town in western Washington, it’s the “Lavender Capital of North America”. No joke. It’s only commercial rival is France. And that’s really not fair being that France is much larger than Sequim.
The Sequim Lavender Festival is held once a year, usually in July. (I feel it should have been postponed by a few weeks because of our crummy summer and lack of sunshine, many of the plants weren’t “ready”). The Sequim Lavender Festival is three days of lavender farm tours and a street fair. Numerous farm participate, about 20. Many of the farms are open all year round, or at least open in the summer; others are only open for touring during the festival. What is a lavender tour like? Well, it’s often self guided. You walk through their rows of lavender and watch out for bees. Some farms let you pick a lavender bouquet for a fee. Others offer boxed lunches and you can picnic in the fields. And you farm crawl; visit different farms, etc. What I find the most interesting is the various varieties and how they smell different. Being that Sequim harvests commercial lavender, the majority of the varieties are “true” lavender, angustifolia, none of the ornamental stuff. So, being in a lavender farm is very fragrant. And the smell of lavender on a plant is much different than any essential oil or hydrosol. You know what I’m talking about if you have any experience with living lavender.
Most of the farms harvest and distill their own lavender essential oils and hydrosols. How much more artisanal does it get than that? Many of the farms give distillation presentations and there is always somebody behind the still wanting to talk about the process. I also find that they are very passionate a little snobby. For example, a young guy in the “Lavender: The Other Bud” t-shirt, behind the still at one of the farms said that the hydrosols should be thrown away because they are inferior but for some reason people keep buying it, so they keep selling it. He had an opinion about every variety of lavender distilled. I know many young fragronerds that would like to date a guy like that…
A few farmers are also beekeepers harvesting monofloral honey. This is some luxurious stuff that is usually only produced in France. But, I’m in lavender land and it’s filled with retired people. And these people have time for awesome hobbies, including harvesting really expensive light yellow and deliciously flavored honey.
You can also purchase dried lavender wreaths, dried lavender buds for tea, and live plants at many of the farms. If it has lavender in it, then you can buy it at Sequim.
Frink was not allowed to go to the lavender festival. I heard dogs were not allowed and this made sense to me. But, I saw dogs there. Don’t tell him. Many of the artisans sell lavender dog treats, lavender bedding, and lavender grooming products. Frink did not get anything. I’m still mad at him for ruining the rugs the week prior. And he is allergic to things, destroys beds, and hates baths.
The festival is all about food too. And all of the food is about lavender. You can find lavender anything. Here in Washington, we care about our food so this is a fun aspect of the festival. Sequim is also home to some larger organic produce farms and Sequim is known for its Dungeness crab. You can imagine that the food is great and you’re not going to get anything fresher. You can get an array of lavender beverages from lavender margaritas and honey lavender lemonade. Need a coffee break? There’s lavender sugar donuts and lavender mochas. Oh, and lavender crepes! You can get pulled pork sandwiches with lavender cranberry BBQ sauce, marinated salmon with lavender aioli crostini, or lavender marinated grilled prawns. Desserts range from lavender ice cream to chocolate lavender brownies. And there’s my favorite, lavender lemon ice cream sandwiches. You can buy my ice cream crack, Ruby Jewel Lemon Cookie with Honey Lavender Ice Cream Sandwich at grocery stores. Seriously, I’m addicted to these. I’m only allowed one a month.
Oh, and many farms participate in a culinary program meaning that they give cooking presentations with the star, lavender. I missed out on these. I really wanted to attend Bella Italia‘s demonstration on lavender risotto, but it was only offered on Sunday 🙁 If you ever have an opportunity to eat at that restaurant, do it. It’s a Northwestern take on Italian food, very good. And yes, it was mentioned in Twilight.
I left with two bottles of essential oil from The Lavender Connection (distilled at CreekSide Lavender Farm), Row 19, a spicy “masculine” or “classic” lavender, and Hidcote Pink, a lavender with an almost grapefruit like sulfuric quality – difficult to describe-complex. Both are very good and I’ve been burning them in an oil diffuser. I hope to make an incense with Row 19 in the near future. I also purchased lavender honey and 5 lavender plants to add to my budding lavender farm. I already have 2 gigantic, established lavender plants. Maybe next year, my little cottage garden, I mean micro lavender farm, will be first stop on the Washington lavender tour map 😉