There I met Mr Rudham, who showed us around and told us all about steam distillation. I wrote about this on this blog in July.
Last week, my friend Ruth Morgan, asked me if I would go and help with the distillation of lavender from the Vauxhall Park lavender patch. Well, it's not a request you receive every day, is it? So I decided I would go along and help out. Being one of those people who doesn't really take in a load of words, I wanted to see how it was done, in the flesh, so to speak.
First of all the 4 hippo bags of lavender had to be emptied into the still.
Then the lid of the still was clamped down. It has it's own clips, but we reinforced it with mole clamps.
Below you can see Laurie explaining the level of the boiling water, how the steam comes up through the lavender, and is cooled and separated.
Then it's a waiting game. About two to three hours waiting for the water and oil to start pouring out of the spout and into the black container below. The lavender water (hydrosol) pours out into a container and the oil (which as we know, floats on water) can be extracted into another container higher up.
Of course the lavender has to be removed from the still after production. Here we are lifting the lid. You can see the steam. We forked out the spent lavender and put it on the compost heap. It was a really interesting day. I met Latifah, who is studying Herbal Medicine, Lamont'e, who runs perfume making workshops in and around Brixton and London, and Polly who kindly drove 4 very large bags of lavender to Carshalton Beeches from Vauxhall. Thanks to my neighbour Nico who accompanied me, and the very lovely Laurence Rudham, who knows lots of interesting things, we all agreed. He also like cheese and lime pickle sandwiches, which makes him OK in my book!