Smith, now the president of the Illinois Herb Association and a board member of the Illinois Speciality Grower's Association, has become an expert on lavender, herbs and flowering foliage.
On a tour through the rows of plants, Smith proved to be a wealth of knowledge on the topic of lavender. She explained that their legendary scent comes from the oils inside them, so while the flowers give off the wonderful fragrance, their stems and leaves retain quite a bit of oil. She recommends people keep both of these, as they can be dried and used in a wonderful potpourri.
Thicker lavender stems, like those found on violet intrigues, can be soaked similarly to applewood and used as a flavorful BBQ skewers.
What you can use your lavender for will be determined by when you pick it.
“This one’s a little early, it does have some buds, but you’d want to wait until a few more are open. If they were being collected for distilling for oils, we’d want to wait for at least 50% of the flowers to be open, but before they go to seed yet, but as the flowers open up, the oil inside them begins to build up. Which is what’s needed for collecting oils," said Smith.