Arizona has a large rural community that stretches across the vast expanse that surrounds the larger metropolitan areas of the state. The state grows a variety of crops, one of which is lavender. I was fortunate enough to spy a deal online for a lavender festival in Eastern Arizona, in a small community known as Red Rock.
Red Rock / Concho
We drove down a long county road, looking for the turn-off for the farm. We knew we were in the middle of nowhere when the county roads branch off with signs only slightly larger than a cell phone. After passing it mistakingly, we back-tracked and found the sign for our road: a dirty and gravel pathway that winded through the rocks and hills to the farm. It reminded me of all the country roads back in Mongolia, and the isolation of it all definitely brought back some pleasant memories of less-than-pleasant rides. The farm itself was relatively small: There was one main building and a few large fields of lavender. The main building itself was long and flat but small for a building of its size and type. We shuffled in with the crowd and squeezed together in the kitchen area.
The first activity we took part in was a cooking demonstration. When I imagined the demonstration, I thought there would be live cooking. Instead, the hosts opted to demo how to create lavender pink lemonade while showing us proper drying techniques (pro-tip: hang them upside-down so the essential oils matriculate into the flowers). We learned about a wide variety of lavender plants and how they can be used in cooking. Making lavender essence by boiling leaves seemed to be the start for many of the recipes, as the flowers were not used very often outside of a dry spice blend. We tasted lavender chicken, lavender apricot cake, lavender dip, and lavender cookies. The cake was by far the most lavender-flavored dish, with the lemonade and the cookies a distant second.
After the demonstration, we headed outside to pick our own springs of lavender from the ground. The plant itself comes up ankle-high with the flowers sticking up a few inches to a foot from the body of the plant. We gathered our clumps methodically, looking for the best stalks with healthy-looking flowers to dry at home. It was hard work but thankfully we had nice cloud cover to dampen the heat of the summer sun.
We ended up purchasing a few lavender plants and even made some fresh lemonade with Arizona lemons and added Arizona lavender. It was very refreshing after the long drive through country roads. If you have time and are in the area, I would highly recommend a quick morning/afternoon trip to check out the lavender festival.