Kim Hansen, who runs Tenderloin Farms, Illinois with her sister Kris Straub, said, “Yes,” lavender is a great substitute for thyme. The sisters have been busy preparing for the farm’s inaugural weekend of lavender-picking and lavender sales, which begins Friday.
What began as a plot of 80 lavender plants in 2016 has now become 1,000 plants, 380 of which are in the “U-Pick” area. Hansen said there are 400 varieties of lavender, which are perennials, a member of the mint family and an herb.
Hansen said there are early, middle- and late-blooming lavenders. Thus, during the growing season, there is another wave of lavender always ready to bloom. English lavender blooms first, typically, and could bloom three to four more times per season, while long-stemmed lavender usually blooms last and only once per season.
The key, the sisters said, is to find lavender varieties hardy enough to survive mid-Mississippi Valley winter temperatures. They experimented with multiple variants, not all of which made it through a growing season.
Hansen said that they wanted to try something new, such as growing lavender, which has been a five-year process. “How do you start growing lavender — with a lot of research,” Hansen said. “Research shows it grows in many places, so why not in Edwardsville?“
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