Cotswold Lavender Farm have kindly agreed to be featured on our blog today talking about distilling the lavender oil. We always wondered what happened to all that beautiful lavender after it had been harvested. How is it distilled? How does it become that pure essential oil that helps us to sleep or reduces our anxiety? They provided us with all the answers.
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Essential oil is held in small balloon like structures at the base of the flowers where they meet the stem. We use a very simple system using rainwater to extract these oils. This is a system that was used by the Ancient Egyptians and Romans, and the same principles are still used today, Steam Distillation.
The crop is gathered and brought to the distillery in a purpose built trailer.
In the distillery a lid is lowered onto the trailer and the trailer sealed. Rainwater that has been collected, heated and made into steam is fed into the trailer through pipes in the floor.
The lavender stems, although containing little oil, create a porous structure within the trailer to allow the steam to circulate. This heats the whole trailer load of around five tonnes of material up to 100 degreesC.
At this temperature the steam causes the oil glands to erupt, and the oil evaporates into the steam. This steam with the oil now entrained within it, rises through the trailer and is collected in the funnel shaped lid.
The mix of oil and steam is then piped to a condenser. Inside the condenser is a series of steel tubes set out in a honeycomb pattern. The steam / oil mixture passes down through the tubes. Cold rainwater is pumped between the tubes, which condenses the steam back to oil and water.
This water / oil mixture passes out of the condenser into the separator tank.
The cooling rainwater, which has been heated up as it leaves the condenser, is pumped to the boiler to be made into steam. This saves heating energy as it is already preheated as it passes through the condenser. Any unused water is returned to a large holding tank ready to be reused in the condenser.
The oil and water mixture is piped into the separator tank. Here the two liquids are allowed to settle out, and the oil forms a layer on the top of the water. The level in the tank is maintained by a clever weir system that constantly takes water from the base of the tank, and stops it overflowing. Precious oil is then collected from the separator.
Steam Distillation is a very simple system. No chemicals are used in the extraction of the oils as the rainwater is naturally softened. This allows us to guarantee that ours really are ‘Pure Essential Oils.’
HOW TO USE YOUR ESSENTIAL OIL
At The Little French Cottage, we like to use our distilled lavender oil as a room spray, a few drops in a body scrub or with a touch of almond oil in our bath.
Read more on How To Use Your Lavender
LAVENDER IN COOKING
Cotswold Lavender have shared with us one of their favourite recipes. Lavender Flapjacks. We are off to give them a go this afternoon. They look wonderful!
250g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
150g golden syrup
425g porridge oats
150g mixed dried fruit
15ml culinary lavender grains (this can be adjusted to taste after you’ve made your first batch, I like a bit more but some prefer less!)
1. Grease a baking tin measuring 20 x 28 cm (8 x 11 inches) or similar dimensions
2. Turn on the oven to 180 C (350 F) Mark 4
3. Place the butter, sugar and syrup in a heavy based saucepan and cook over a moderate heat. Stir until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the oats, mixed fruit and culinary lavender grains, until evenly coated in the syrup.
4. Spread the mixture out in the prepared tin, level the surface with the back of a wooden spoon. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes unitl a deep golden colour around the edges. The mixture should still be soft in the centre. Leave in the tin until almost cold.
5. Turn out onto a board and cut into 18 bars. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.
We hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about how lavender oil is distilled. Thank you Cotswold Lavender for joining us.