Little Sky Lavender Farm
A family business grows in Boulder Creek
Maria Maze farms culinary lavender at her home in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Photograph by Robert Marek
When Maria Maze and her family moved to their home in Boulder Creek, her husband looked at their densely wooded property with its single clearing in the back and said, “Look, we’ve got a little piece of sky out here.”
Years later, Little Sky Lavender Farm became the name of the Maze family business. The couple grows wild culinary lavender and produces lavender cookie and brownie mixes, lavender sugar, lavender sea salt, and more.
Little Sky Lavender began as a side project for the Mazes to earn extra income and soon turned into a full-time endeavor. Maria says, “We started small, and originally my plan was to reintroduce lavender into American cuisine... I didn’t plan on making cookie mixes and brownie mixes.”
When Maze started selling her culinary lavender at the Los Gatos farmers’ market, she gave samples of lavender baked goods to market-goers. “After tasting our samples, customers would say, ‘Can’t we just buy the cookies? Do we have to make them ourselves?’ ” Eventually Maze started baking cookies to sell at the farmers’ market, which evolved into packaging her own cookie mixes.
The Mazes started their lavender crop from seed, using the variety L. angustifolia. They experimented for three years to find the colors they liked, and carefully protected one plant they call “the mother plant,” never fully harvesting it because it has the most beautiful color.
Maze says growing lavender is relatively easy. The plants are drought-tolerant and have a natural antiseptic that makes them pest-resistant. A small plot of lavender creates a big yield. “Just a pound of lavender makes about 500 cookie or brownie mixes. It’s a crop that goes a long way,” Maze says.
The drawback is that harvesting is labor intensive. “It’s a difficult process of hand-stripping lavender from the chaff. It takes four hours for two of us to harvest a pound of lavender.”
For baking purposes, Maze recommends using lavender as a substitute for cinnamon, cloves, or allspice. She says lavender is “a chameleon herb with a sweet side and a savory side. It mocks the flavor of other aromatic herbs and is wonderful in any dish that calls for mint, rosemary, basil, or oregano.”
But the herb is highly versatile, Maze says. “I love surprising people with lavender. I don’t know of any other herb that you can use in a tea to soothe your stomach, rub on a burn, or put in a pumpkin pie.”
Look for Little Sky Lavender products at Whole Foods Markets, New Leaf Community Markets, and Chefworks of Santa Cruz, or visit www.littleskylavender.com for recipe ideas.