It might come as a surprise, but lavenders are not grown only to be featured on instagram… They are actually used to produce essential oil. Here is the process at Aroma’Plantes, a distillery in Sault, filled with the intoxicating aroma of Provence’s darling.
The lavender gets steamed in those big tanks
When done, the remaining straw is kept for burning under the following batches
During the extraction process, the dried plant is packed into a big tank, water steam goes through it, collecting the essential oils on the way up. The steam is then cooled back into a liquide by going through another tank filled with cold water. The oil (essential oil) gets separated from the water (hydrolat) by gravity: as it is less dense than water, it settles at the top of the small receiving tank. A tap on each end of the tank let the precious solutions being collected in the lower level of the workshop.
Essential oils are very precious because the yield is very low. Every one of these huge cylinders of lavenders weight approximatively one ton and gives out only a few litres of oil (from 6 of lavender to 21 for lavandin). The water based hydrolat comes out in much bigger quantities and still has some interesting properties as it does carry a significant amount of active ingredients, the ones that are water soluble.