We receive questions about what happens with our lavender after it has been harvested, especially this time of the year when the lavender is no longer in bloom, so we thought we'd take the time to remind you how we use the harvest from the 6,000 lavender plants we grow here on Old Mission Peninsula!
For the most part...
Our lavender is harvested into bundles, dried, and later sold as whole dried bundles in our seasonal garden shop and here online! We also de-stem dried bundles and clean the buds to use for culinary lavender - we make cookies in house and send lavender to Moomers so they can make us some tasty ice cream! And, we add the dried lavender buds into our handmade/hand-sewn lavender filled products like
Neck Cozy + Eye Mask Sets! But that's not all...
Now, along with these dried bundles, lavender filled products, and food items, our harvested lavender is used to make pure lavender essential oil and lavender hydrosol using our NEW lavender still!
Coming all the way from Portugal, we're very excited to have this still on our team! It is handmade of copper and designed to perform the necessary process to create pure essential oil and lavender hydrosol! This so called process is steam distillation.
At the base of the still is a kettle that gets filled with water (150 gallon capacity) and is heated underneath by a propane gas burner. The burner boils the water inside the kettle creating steam that travels up through the steam tray and into the middle column of the still. The middle column attached to the kettle is hollow - but it’s not empty long! This space is where the fresh lavender is held.
For each “run” we place approximately 7 14-gallon totes of fresh (but not fully bloomed) lavender into this main chamber - filling it all the way to the top! YES, this a lot of lavender! Once the pot is filled we put the hat of the kettle on and connect the pipe, “swan neck”, to the smaller pot next to it, the condenser. The heat is turned on under the kettle and we’re ready to distill!
The goal of this first step in the distilling process is to boil the water and turn that water in the bottom of the kettle from a liquid to a gas (steam) so it can rise and easily pass through the lavender filled column. As the steam passes through the lavender the pressure inside the sealed kettle, along with the high temperature of the steam, causes the buds of the lavender to release their essential oils. Think of this step in the process like steaming broccoli! It's a very similar concept!
As the steam collects the essential oil molecules, it travels up through the column and into the pipe to begin cooling off.
The condenser is filled with cooler water to cool the pipe containing the steam. This allows the steam to go from its gas state back to a liquid. But also, inside the condenser is a coil that heats up so that some of the water becomes warm, rises and exits out of the valve on top of the condenser. The warmer water that exits is replaced with cold water simultaneously entering the bottom of the condenser. This causes a movement in the pot and causes the cooled steam, turned back to liquid at this point, to sink to the bottom and drip out into a glass measuring cup!
From there, the contents of the measuring cup are poured into an object called a glass essencier - basically the essential oil and hydrosol separator. This is the final step in our distillation process. The water and oil combination inside the measuring cup enters the essencier through the funnel at the top. The essential oil and hydrosols separate passively due to the differential in specific gravity between the "water" and the essential oil. Water and oil, of course, do not mix.
The hydrosols flow through the "s" shaped tube, while the essential oils flow through the straight tube. We place a smaller beaker to capture the dripping essential oils and a plastic tube is attached to the "s" tube to direct the hydrosols to a large water cooler container.
Can you believe it takes 45 minutes after turning on the kettle to begin seeing liquid come out of the condenser? And overall it takes about 4-5 hours per run just to make 16 oz of oil and 2 to 2 ½ gallons of hydrosol! WOW!
This process takes a lot of time and effort but helps us create a great product that we know you'll love! We are passionate about our lavender and the many ways we can use it, create with it, and share it with you! Thanks for reading and for supporting
the Secret Garden at Brys Estate!
Essential oil coming soon! | Shop Lavender Hydrosol now!