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Lavender... the word alone brings to mind a heady perfume, fields of blue, purple rows rolling with the landscape. A perfume, a delicate flower, sachets, bath bubbles... Pictures of lavender adorn many a guide to Provence. The Abbaye de Senanque in the Luberon draws many to its doors simply by the site of these splendid plants surrounding it. From late June through mid- August, these fields draw us from afar.
Lavender has grown on the plateaus of Provence since antiquity. Early appreciated for its perfume it became a favored disinfectant during the Middle Ages before becoming key to the development of the perfume industry in Grasse during the Renaissance. Over time its many properties have been discovered. Housewives place lavender scented packets in the clothes chests and armoires to keep the moths away. Small sachets may be tucked under your pillow to help you sleep, or lavender scented oil may be applied to your temples to soothe a headache. And more recently, cooks have begun experimenting with lavender in cooking. Lavender honey, made by the bees with the nectar gathered exclusively from the lavender flower in mid-summer, has an aroma all its own. When you come to Provence do taste this most special of nectars.
There are multiple lavenders, of which the two most seen in Provence are the true lavande fine, and the hibrid lavandin. The lavande fine grows only above 600 meters altitude and is known for its more delicate perfume, and its calming powers. Lavandin is what is planted at the lower altitudes. It is easier to cultivate and is the plant of choice for soaps and cosmetics. Also, strangely, it is known as a stimulant rather than a calmant. When we visit the Abbaye of Senanque in the Luberon we are in fact visiting the fields of lavandin.

(from www.cuisineprovencale.com)

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Additional Photos by Pierlorenzo Marletto (trigomiro) Silver Star Critiquer/Silver Note Writer [C: 31 W: 1 N: 45] (383)
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