Like many good things – a rainbow, a shooting star, luck at cards – it arrives suddenly and doesn’t stay long. For a couple of weeks in late June and early July, the 14,000 lavender plants at Cape Cod Lavender Farm in Harwich burst into purple bloom, filling the air with their distinctive, pungent scent.
All picking of the tender stalks is done by hand, said Cynthia Sutphin, who owns the farm with her husband, Matthew. The farm sells most of the crop fresh, and the rest is hung to dry. By September, everything is gone.
“Lavender is the most versatile plant, in my opinion, that God has created,” Cynthia Sutphin says. “It’s pleasing to the touch, it has a wonderful scent, and it tastes delicious. It pleases all the senses.”
Visitors can meander the lavender fields at no charge, though it will be difficult to leave without purchasing something to capture that lavender smell. The farm sells more than 20 varieties, all hardy for the Cape, the Boston area, and Connecticut, Sutphin said.
Visitors, especially children, will enjoy the Enchanted Garden, created by Harwich gardener and stonemason Eddie Foisy. A circular walkway leads to a miniature turreted castle in a shade garden filled with hosta, ferns, and sweet woodruff. Children often leave shells, pebbles, pine cones, or coins on the castle’s doorstep -- “gifts for the fairies,” Sutphin explained.
Lavender finds its way into a variety of products, most crafted by Cape Cod artisans, in the farm’s shop. Among the most popular are soap, candles, and a lavender-lemon marmalade Sutphin likens to chutney and recommends for chicken, fish, and pork or served with crackers and brie.
Fresh lavender stems will remain fragrant and moist in a container (no water) away from direct sunlight for about two weeks, Sutphin said. After that, the plants will dry naturally and the scent will intensify. Each bud contains an oil sac that, when touched, will release a tiny burst of aromatic oil. A sachet of dried lavender contains hundreds of such sacs and will remain fragrant for years with only an occasional squeeze.