The Sweet Smell of Summer: Colorado Lavender Festival

Colorado’s warm sunny days and cool summer nights are the perfect combination when it comes to growing peaches, apples, grapes — and lavender. The climate in the Grand Junction area provides excellent conditions for farming the fragrant herb, according to the Lavender Association of Western Colorado. English lavender and lavandin grow particularly well on Colorado’s Western Slope.

Lavender has enjoyed increasing popularity with Colorado growers, and has become a viable cash crop. What better way to celebrate this growing herb love-affair than with a town party?

The first Colorado Lavender Festival will take place July 15-17, 2011, in the western Colorado town of Palisade. Hosted by the Lavender Association of Western Colorado, the event will include self-guided and guided lavender farm tours to visit area growers in peak bloom season. The July 16 Festival in the Park will feature workshops, seminars and question-and-answer sessions on topics ranging from starting a lavender farm to lavender growing tips, history, uses and cooking. An expert from Colorado State University Extension will present lavender research project highlights and a lecture on local growing information.

Attendees can take part in a hands-on demonstration in lavender aromatherapy, essential oil use and crafts. The event also will include activities for children, live entertainment, music, food and retail vendors with lavender-inspired merchandise.

Tickets for the event are available at www.coloradolavender.org. The full-day guided farm tour tickets are $49/person. Seminar tickets are $60/person. Palisade is just east of Grand Junction in far western Colorado, along the Interstate 70 corridor. Grand Junction is 244 miles from Denver and 284 miles from Salt Lake City.

Common uses for lavender include fragrant sachets, essential oils and in crafts. It can also be used in cooking. Here’s a lavender cookie recipe from Paola Legarre, owner of Sage Creations Organic Farm.

Lavender has enjoyed increasing popularity with Colorado growers.

Lavender Chocolate Shortbread

INGREDIENTS
• 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
• 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
• 2 T. lavender honey
• 1 t. pure vanilla extract
• 2/3 cup cocoa powder
• 1 T. fresh or dried lavender
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
• 1 t. kosher salt

DIRECTIONS
1) In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter and honey until creamy. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the vanilla, then beat in the cocoa on low speed. Beat in the flour, lavender and salt; the dough will be very soft.

2) Divide the dough in half and place each half between 2 large sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Roll out the dough ¼-inch thick and transfer to 2 baking sheets. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.

3) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Working with one piece of dough at a time, remove the top sheet of parchment and invert the dough onto a lightly floured work surface; remove the second sheet of parchment. Using a floured 3-inch cookie cutter, stamp out cookies as close together as possible. Transfer the cookies to parchment paper–lined baking sheets and bake for about 14 minutes, or until firm. Let cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then, using a metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely. Reroll the scraps, and stamp out more cookies, chilling the scraps between batches.

Make Ahead

The dough can be refrigerated for up to three days, or freeze up to one month.

If You Go

Grand Junction (www.visitgrandjunction.com)

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