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Leonie’s laven­der gar­den, neatly tucked up un­der weed­mat.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Feature - Makes 950ml (ap­prox)

lsie Hall is a huge inspiration to a newer grower like Leonie Rouse, and now she’s work­ing with it, she has dis­cov­ered she loves laven­der more than ever. “We have a life­style block and we had goats and sheep and chooks, you know what’s it like. Then I read an ar­ti­cle and it was all about Elsie’s laven­der and how she started off and that’s what got me go­ing. I just thought it was a plant that I’d love to work with and it is, you get out there and you work with it and it feels amaz­ing. The smell… and even in win­ter the plants look good.”

Leonie has around 1800-2000 plants – “it’s what you would call a large laven­der gar­den” – and while she chose a north-fac­ing site with free drain­ing soil, she was also aware if she wanted to at­tract vis­i­tors to buy laven­der oil-based prod­ucts, it was no good hid­ing away the glory of laven­der in full bloom. That’s why her crop lines ei­ther side of the drive­way and smoth­ers a road­side pad­dock. There’s also a dis­play gar­den of the 60 pur­ple, blue, white and pink va­ri­eties Leonie has col­lected, all sell­ing it­self to peo­ple driv­ing past.

“It’s not even half an acre, not a big area, but enough to mow. I love look­ing at laven­der farms and I thought other peo­ple might too. We love it, I love peo­ple’s re­ac­tions, peo­ple who come in are peo­ple who love laven­der and they love wan­der­ing round.”

Each year, Leonie and hus­band Trevor har­vest their small crop by hand, Trevor slash­ing down the flow­ers with a sickle. Then they get in the car and drive to Am­ber­ley to visit dis­tillers Keith and Char­lotte Brown. Within an hour of ar­riv­ing, they’re on their way home again with a bot­tle of oil that Leonie will use in her hand-crafted soaps, lo­tions, balms and other prod­ucts over the next year.

The Rouses have three English va­ri­eties for oil – Pa­cific Blue, Vi­o­let In­trigue and Avis Hill – and the high yield­ing in­ter­me­di­ary, oil-only va­ri­ety Grosso, bloom­ing at dif­fer­ent times over sum­mer.

“Grosso has a huge yield. If I had 100kg of Gross (flow­ers), I would get over four litres of oil; if I did the same for an English I’d get prob­a­bly 1½ litres, so for sheer vol­ume you go for Grosso. I would say sell­ing through mar­kets, 80% of my sales are for Grosso. It’s be­cause it has the cam­phor in it and peo­ple like that, but it’s pref­er­en­tial, every­one is dif­fer­ent.” Laven­der un­der snow sur­vives, go­ing into dor­mancy.

METHOD If you’re us­ing fresh flow­ers, grind them up to a fine mix us­ing a mor­tar and pes­tle. Add laven­der and honey to but­ter, then mix. Shape into a log about 4-5cm round, then wrap in waxed pa­per and chill for 3-4 days in the fridge to al­low the flavours to in­fuse. Serve on hot scones or fresh bread. METHOD Heat the milk, vanilla essence, honey and fresh laven­der in a heavy pot and bring to a gen­tle boil. Leave to cool for 10 min­utes and test for flavour – if the laven­der taste isn’t strong, add more flow­ers and bring back to a gen­tle boil. This is im­por­tant as if it’s too weak now, the laven­der taste won’t carry through into the fin­ished mix once it’s frozen. Re­move the laven­der flow­ers, but don’t worry if any lit­tle bits of flower re­main. Whisk the sugar and egg yolks un­til pale and add to the pot. Keep on a gen­tle heat, stir­ring con­tin­u­ously un­til it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Leave to cool. Process in an ice cream maker or pour into a shal­low plas­tic con­tainer, place in the freezer and stir ev­ery cou­ple of hours to stop ice crys­tals form­ing.

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