Monday Recap: Harvesting and Preserving

It seems like the garden has hit full-blown production mode here of late. The kitchen counter is the center of much of the action. Goodies come in, they get processed, and more stuff comes in to take their place. Last week peaches came in after we made a trip to Reid’s Orchard. We brought back a peck of yellow peaches and a half peck of white ones. We’ve been eating them every day, and my wife made peach leather with some of them. I love homemade fruit leathers, and my wife is going to make some blackberry leather as soon as she has the time, and the dehydrator is free. The peach and blackberry leathers are made with pureed fruit and a little honey added to taste.

local peaches

local peaches

The blueberries are getting smaller, but they haven’t quit just yet. We are up over 51 pounds this year, about the same as last year’s haul. My wife has been harvesting them for seven weeks now, and I’ve pretty much eaten some every day. I will miss the fresh ones when they are done, but we have loads of them in the freezer to enjoy until next year! Every day my wife harvests them and spreads them out on the counter. We eat what we want, then the next morning she freezes whatever is left.

daily blueberry operation

daily blueberry operation

Tomatoes of all size and shapes are coming in now from the garden. We’ve dehydrated them and slow-roasted them, plus I froze some whole and halved ones for soups and other uses. Next we will be making sauces and ketchup once we have enough of them. In the below photo we have Juliet, Golden Sweet, Golden Rave, Green Tiger and Black Cherry.

a harvest of small fruited tomatoes

a harvest of small fruited tomatoes

We’ve been enjoying eating the slicing tomatoes. That’s the 2014 All-America Selection Chef’s Choice Orange hanging out with the heirloom Eva Purple Ball in the below photo. The Chef’s Choice Orange is a hybrid version of the heirloom Amana Orange tomato, and it is making lots of mild-tasting, nicely sized tomatoes so far. Eva Purple Ball is a dependable performer for us every year. I’m also harvesting Early Girl and Jetsetter now. I’m keeping my eye on the Vinson Watts and Cherokee Purple tomatoes and they should be ready soon.

Chef's Choice Orange and Eva Purple Ball tomatoes

Chef’s Choice Orange and Eva Purple Ball tomatoes

The spring planted broccoli is just about done for, but I got a nice amount of side shoots last week. They made for some tasty Broccoli Walnut Salad. Many of the side shoots came from the Packman variety, which usually seems to make a lot of them.

broccoli side shoots

broccoli side shoots

The pole beans and summer squashes continue to produce for us. Some of the squash wound up in a grilled vegetable salad my wife made last week. It also featured grilled onions, carrots, peppers and kohlrabi from the garden, along with some Florence fennel that came from the grocery. Grilling really brings out the flavor of all these veggies. Toss with a vinegar and oil dressing, add some cherry tomatoes and feta cheese,  and you have a meal!

grilled vegetable salad

grilled vegetable salad

The summer lettuces aren’t nearly as tender and sweet as those that grow in cooler weather, but we enjoy them anyway. That’s Red Sails in the below photo, which my wife used to make a Wilted Lettuce salad last week.

Red Sails lead lettuce

Red Sails lead lettuce

I haven’t talked much about bread lately, but we continue to bake all of our own bread products, including rolls, flatbreads and buns. Moomies Famous Burger Buns are a staple here, and I made a batch of them last week. These freeze well and we usually have some in the freezer whenever we need them.

fresh from the oven Moomies Famous Burger Buns

fresh from the oven Moomies Famous Burger Buns

And one unintentional guest came in on a harvest last week, possibly with the lettuce. I found this little green frog on the kitchen floor, and managed to get it in the Tubtrug before it hopped away in the house somewhere. I returned it to the outside world, where it promptly jumped off into the grass. It’s hard to tell from the below photo, but it was less than an inch long and quite a jumper!

green frog visitor

green frog visitor

I hope you have enjoyed seeing a bit of what’s going on here in late July. To see what other gardeners are digging, drying, harvesting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays.

 

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Photo Friday: July Flowers

I thought I would share some images of the Happy Acres summer flowers that are blooming now. First up is the Becky Shasta daisy. It’s a lovely bloomer that butterflies like but the deer don’t!

Becky daisies

Becky daisies

Nearby Becky is the Jubilee rugosa rose. We grow these for the hips, but in this case the deer usually get them before we do. Bees love the flowers too, as do other insects. The bumble bee in the below photo just wouldn’t sit still!

Jubilee rugosa rose

Jubilee rugosa rose

Over in the slope garden, it’s a sea of Rudbeckia flowers, plus a few white and purple coneflowers.

Rudbeckia and coneflowers

Rudbeckia and coneflowers

And speaking of coneflowers, over in the Wild Garden the purple ones (Echinacea purpurea) have been blooming non-stop for a couple of months now.

purple coneflowers

purple coneflowers

Blooming nearby is Ratibida pinnata, sometimes called the grey-head coneflower. The butterflies and bees love it and the Echinacea.

Ratibida pinnata flowers

Ratibida pinnata flowers

Also in the Wild Garden the Allium ‘Millenium’ is just starting to flower. They resemble chive blossoms, but bloom much later in the season. They are just as popular with the beneficial insects and butterflies as the chives are. I try and put a variety of plants in the Wild Garden to attract a wide variety of butterflies, pollinators and other beneficial insects, and birds. I plan on doing a feature on it soon.

Allium 'Millenium'

Allium ‘Millenium’

I’ll close with another butterfly favorite that is just now flowering, Joe-Pye weed. This flower is anything but a weed here.

oe-Pye weed

Joe-Pye weed

I hope you have enjoyed looking at some the flowers we have blooming now. I’ll be back soon with more adventures!

 

Posted in Gardening, Photo Friday | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Monday Recap: Transitioning

July is already more than half over, and there’s a noticeable change in the rhythm of things here. We’ve gone from planting, mulching and watering the summer garden to harvesting and preserving the summer fruits and veggies. And now it’s time to start planting for fall. The seedlings I started in late June are growing up fast, and it won’t be long before they are in the ground and growing. They spent a little time on the deck Saturday before they headed on to the greenhouse. That’s about half the total plants in the below photo. And I need to start some more things like Asian greens and lettuce soon.

seedlings for fall vegetables

seedlings for fall vegetables

It’s also time to sow carrots for fall, even as I am finishing the harvest of the spring planted ones. I’m sowing the fall carrots where the onions were growing, not necessarily because that’s a good succession but because that’s really the only good open spot I have at the moment. I’m pulling the spring carrots as we need them and as I find room in the refrigerator. That’s Cordoba in the below photo.

harvest of Cordoba carrots

harvest of Cordoba carrots

I couldn’t get seed for Hercules carrots this year due to crop failure, and Johnny’s Selected Seeds was recommending Cordoba as a substitute. It’s a blocky, cone-shaped carrot that is supposed to do well in heavier soils. Even though our soil isn’t all that heavy, it certainly did well in it’s first outing here, and I will plant more for this fall. Due to the wedge shape it was easy to pull up without digging, which meant no broken off carrots to dig out either. It’s also pretty tasty, so it’s got that going for it too!

closeup of Cordoba carrot

closeup of Cordoba carrot

Some of the Purple Haze carrots wound up on a salad. The purple and orange interior was pretty to look at when grated over the lettuce. I’m sure it added a few anthocyanins to the meal as well.

salad topped with grated Purple Haze carrots

salad topped with grated Purple Haze carrots

And speaking of onions, the Candy and Sierra Blanca onions did great this year. We’ve been enjoying them in various ways. They were great in some vinegar cole slaw I made last week, and they are so very tasty when grilled or roasted. The Red of Tropea onions were a big disappointment though. It seems I was shipped the wrong slips, even though the bundle on the label said ‘Red Tropea’. The onions that grew look like a red cippiolini type called Red Marble. They are lovely little onions, but the key word there is ‘little’. I ordered them from Renee’s Garden Seeds, and they have refunded my money but of course that doesn’t give me any of the Red Torpedo onions that have done so well in years past! I’ll find another supplier next year, though it’s really the grower’s fault.

Red Marble onions

Red Marble onions

The small fruited tomatoes are coming on like gangbusters. We started dehydrating them last week, and I slow-roasted some as well. Those are two of my favorite ways to preserve the smaller tomatoes, at least the ones that we don’t eat fresh.

tomatoes for dehydrating

tomatoes for dehydrating

We use the FoodSaver to seal them up airtight and then freeze them. Both the dehydrated and the slow-roasted tomatoes keep well that way for at least a year or more.

dehydrated and slow-roaster tomatoes after sealing

dehydrated and slow-roaster tomatoes after sealing

We also enjoyed the first slicing tomatoes last week. They begged to be put on a BLT, and who was I to argue with that? That’s the red Jetsetter and the black fruited Paul Robeson in the below photo. I have to say the Paul Robeson is no match for our favorite Cherokee Purple, at least so far. Hopefully we can do a side by side taste test of the two when the CPs start ripening. The BLTs were still tasty however. Jetsetter has become my favorite hybrid slicing tomato, and it is a dependable and tasty performer for us here.

sliced Jetsetter(top) and Paul Robeson(bottom) tomatoes

sliced Jetsetter(top) and Paul Robeson(bottom) tomatoes

The pole beans are continuing to keep us supplied with beans to eat and to freeze. The Fortex beans are coming on now, and they are always a treat. They are stringless and tender even when they get to be a foot long. I try and pick them a bit shorter than that, like the ones in the below photo which are closer to ten inches long on average.

harvest of Fortex beans

harvest of Fortex beans

I cooked up some of the Fortex beans along with a medley of fingerling potatoes. That’s a mix of French Fingerling, Russian Banana and Magic Molly in the below photo. There are a few of the smallest Yukon Golds in there too.

assortment of fingerling potatoes

assortment of fingerling potatoes

The blueberry harvest continues to wind down. I know my wife is happy about that, since she has been out there harvesting them pretty much every day for the past six weeks. The blackberries are giving us a nice amount every few days, as are the raspberries. The 2014 blueberry harvest is nearing 50 pounds. Those little blue organic jewels are precious to say the least. The local berry farm is selling them for about $5 a pound, and they’re not even organic! It’s safe to say the plants have paid for themselves several times over.

Apache blackberries

Apache blackberries

 

In other news, I pulled all the cucumber and amaranth plants from the greenhouse after they got infested with a major spider mite outbreak. Mites are a common problem in the summer greenhouse here, and they mushroomed out of control before I knew it. There’s time to replant the cukes, and in the meantime the ones out in the main garden are keeping us supplied. The last thing I need is spider mites getting on the seedlings for fall, though I have to say they seem to prefer the cucumber leaves. They can all hang out together on the compost pile now! I planted a few new leaf amaranth plants already, which are in the left side of the otherwise empty beds in the below photo. The mites left the parsley plants on the right side alone. The cucumber seeds should be up in a few days and I’ll get them planted too.

almost empty greenhouse beds

almost empty greenhouse beds

The dehydrator stays busy this time of year. When it’s not drying tomatoes, we’ve been using it to dry herbs, calendula and even onions. Drying the onions sure made the house stinky for a while, but then as the onions began to get dry the smell dissipated. I guess it wasn’t any worse than when we dry garlic, which is something else I’ll be drying soon.

calendula drying in dehydrator

calendula drying in dehydrator

I’ll close with an image of the Scarlet Hibiscus which has just started blooming in the Wild Garden. The hollyhock-like flowers are attractive to both hummingbirds and butterflies, and of course they are also pretty to look at as the tall plants tower over the other perennials.

Scarlet Hibiscus flower

Scarlet Hibiscus flower

That’s a look at what’s going on here at Happy Acres. To see what other gardeners are digging, drying, harvesting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne graciously hosts Harvest Mondays.

 

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Saturday Spotlight: Wave Petunias

Regular readers may recall that I am a big fan of the Wave petunias. I’ve been growing petunias for as long as I can remember, and when the Wave varieties first appeared I couldn’t wait to try them. The Petunia ‘Wave Purple’ was a 1995 All-America selection, and other colors were soon to be introduced. I loved the original Purple Wave, and for that matter all the Waves will brighten up any area with their colorful and seemingly never-ending display of blooms. They have certainly made growing petunias a lot easier with their productivity and easy going nature.

Wave Petunia 'Purple Improved' growing in old wheelbarrow

Wave Petunia ‘Purple Improved’ growing in old wheelbarrow

It’s been almost 20 years after the original Wave was introduced, there are now five different Wave series, and they come in more than a dozen different colors. There is truly a Wave petunia for every growing situation, with types for containers and planters (Easy Wave), hanging baskets (Shock Wave and Double Wave), and even some that will form a miniature hedge or climb a structure like a fence (Tidal Wave). Unlike older petunias, you don’t need to remove the spent flowers on the Wave petunias. They do however require an ample supply of water and periodic fertilizing throughout the growing season.

Easy Wave Red petunia growing in container

Easy Wave Red petunia growing in container

While petunias in general are not necessarily a great source for nectar or pollen, they do serve to attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. I wish I could say they are deer-resistant, but our hungry deer herd seem to be quite fond of all the different Waves!

Tidal Wave Pink petunia

Tidal Wave Pink petunia

The only drawback to the Waves is that the plants can be expensive to buy if you want a lot of them. At least they are expensive around here. So, a few years ago I stopped buying transplants and began starting them myself from seed. I found that for the price of one plant at a nursery I could buy a packet of seeds that would grow ten or more plants. That was a deal I just couldn’t pass up!

transplanting Wave Purple Improved petunias

transplanting Wave Purple Improved petunias

The seeds themselves are tiny, and are almost always sold pelleted to make them easier to handle. Petunias do take a long time from seed to flower, so I usually start the seeds indoors in early February. I use a heating mat to give the seeds the heat they require for germination, and they are normally up in a week or less. You can read about the whole process I use here: Do The Wave. By late April or early May they are ready to plant outside.

2011 Wave petunias at 5 weeks from sowing

2011 Wave petunias at 5 weeks from sowing

Whether you buy transplants or start them yourself from seed, if you’re looking for an easy-to-grow annual flower, Wave petunias are hard to beat. With a variety to suit almost any use, and lots of colors to choose from, there is surely a Wave petunia you will adore!

To see my other Saturday Spotlights, visit the Variety Spotlights page.

Posted in Saturday Spotlight | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Grow Vertical with Pole Beans

If you’re like me, and most other folks, space is often at a premium in the garden. I am always trying to find room for one more thing to grow, and I know I’m not the only one that struggles with that issue. One popular way to more effectively utilize that limited space is to go vertical with vining plants like beans. I’ve been growing various types of pole beans for quite a few years, and they are a good way to maximize your growing space while you also increase your yields.

pole beans reaching for the sky

pole beans reaching for the sky

There are several advantages to growing pole beans. For one thing, they typically produce two to three times as many beans per plant compared to bush beans. They also tend to produce those beans over a longer period of time, which makes them great for having lots of fresh beans to eat. And while taste is always subjective, many people think that pole beans taste better than the bush varieties.

Rattlesnake pole beans

Rattlesnake pole beans

There are certainly many different kinds of vining beans out there, including numerous heirloom varieties that have been handed down from generation to generation. Another added benefit I like is that the pole beans are produced higher off the ground, so they don’t require bending or stooping down to harvest them. And since the beans and vines are not coming in contact with the ground, you usually have fewer issues with diseases and spoilage.

htrellis for pole beans

trellis for pole beans

One thing for sure, the vining varieties need some kind of sturdy support. It can be as simple as wooden or metal stakes, or a little more elaborate setup like bamboo poles sunk in the ground and lashed together at the top to form a teepee. Since I grow a lot of pole beans every year, I like to put up a trellis using a mesh material like Trellinet or Hortonova. These lightweight materials are UV resistant, and with a little care they can be reused for more than one season. For the last two growing seasons I have used the Hortonova material, which has a 6″ by 7″ opening which allows ample access at harvest time. You can read more about how I put up the trellis here: Trellising the Pole Beans.

recent harvest of Musica, Gold Marie and Rattlesnake pole beans

recent harvest of Musica, Gold Marie and Rattlesnake pole beans

The actual planting and growing of pole beans is pretty much the same as for bush beans. If you’re new to growing beans, Cornell University has a Growing Guide that explains all the details. And you can check out their Pole Bean Varieties for information and independent reviews from gardeners all over. This year I am growing the snap beans Fortex, Musica, and Gold Marie, and the dual-purpose beans Cherokee Trail of Tears and Rattlesnake which can be harvested either at the green snap stage or allowed to grow to maturity and harvested as shell beans. My other pole bean for 2014 is Good Mother Stallard, an heirloom shell bean with maroon colored beans mottled with white and a great meaty and rich flavor.

Good Mother Stallard beans

Good Mother Stallard beans

If you’ve never tried growing pole beans, you might consider giving them a try in your garden. While it may take a little bit of time initially to set up the support system, the payoff will come at harvest time with lots of tasty beans.

This post was shared at  Green Thumb Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday and Old-Fashioned Friday.

 

 

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Monday Recap: Digging, Drying and Fermenting

Last week it was time to do some more digging for buried treasure in the garden, starting with potatoes. I wanted to try some of the Yukon Golds and see if they were ready. The tops were finally dying down so I figured it was about time. They have become our favorite all-purpose potato, and we use them for baking, mashing and other things as well. With rain in the forecast, I wound up digging all of them and the rest of the potatoes too.

Yukon Gold potatoes

Yukon Gold potatoes

This year I experimented growing blue potatoes for the first time. I planted Adirondack Blue, Purple Majestic and Magic Molly. The Adirondack Blue was the most productive here of the three. I’m still trying to decide which one I like best in the kitchen. That’s Magic Molly in the below photo, which is a fingerling type. I’ll try and show a comparison of the three later on when I get a chance to try them all. I’ll probably pick my favorite of the three to grow again next year.

Magic Molly potatoes

Magic Molly potatoes

Next up was the garlic. The softneck varieties were flopping over like onions do, so I dug a few to see how they looked. I was happy at how big and fat the bulbs were, so I went ahead and dug them all. There were also a few of the hardneck types left so I dug them too. They’re all drying down in the basement now. Some of the softneck Nootka Rose made double bulbs. You can’t beat two for one! Nootka Rose is my favorite softneck, as it does well here and is a good keeper. It doesn’t seem to mind our variable winters either, despite being an heirloom variety from the Pacific Northwest. I have to say the silverskins Silver White and S&H Silver also did well this year, despite our colder than usual winter. I won’t weigh the garlic harvest until all of them are cured.

Nootka Rose garlic

Nootka Rose garlic

While I was in the mood for digging, I also dug up some of the spring carrots. I tried growing two varieties of purple carrots this year for the first time, Purple Haze and Purple Dragon. I planted about a two foot section of each variety, and each wound up producing right at two pounds. Both made nicely shaped, colorful carrots. In the below photo, that’s Purple Dragon on the left and Purple Haze on the right.

Purple Dragon and Purple Haze carrots

Purple Dragon and Purple Haze carrots

Of the two carrots, I think the Purple Dragon has a more uniform purple color on the outside, but as you can see in the below photo the purple coloration goes further on the inside flesh of the Purple Haze. Both have a nice mild taste raw, but my wife and I agreed that Purple Dragon had a little more flavor. I’ll grow both of them again this fall and see how they do then. I need to dig more of the carrots as time and space permits, but the refrigerator is pretty full of other things at the moment.

interior of Purple Dragon(L) and Purple Haze(R) carrots

interior of Purple Dragon(L) and Purple Haze(R) carrots

A harvest that didn’t require digging, bending or kneeling was the first of the 2014 pole beans. That’s Gold Marie and Musica in the below photo. I grew Musica last year and it is a fine tasting and heavy producing flat Italian bean. It’s my first time growing Gold Marie but the flat yellow Italian type beans usually do great for me here. I’ve also got Fortex and Rattlesnake planted, and they are just now starting to bloom. The Cherokee Trail of Tears beans shouldn’t be far behind.

Gold Marie and Musica pole beans

Gold Marie and Musica pole beans

We managed to get away from HA for a day last week and made time for a picnic. My wife and I went on a picnic on our third date, and they have been a regular part of our lives ever since. We drove to the nearby Lincoln State Park (which is right across the road from the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial) and enjoyed a lovely lunch of Curry Chicken Salad and Green Bean and Bulgur Salad with Walnuts. I used green beans, cherry tomatoes, onions and parsley from the garden. The Sun Gold and Supersweet 100 tomatoes were tasty in this salad.

Green Bean and Bulgur Salad with Walnuts

Green Bean and Bulgur Salad with Walnuts

After eating, we worked off some of the lunch with a hike around the lake. On that third date, my wife was expecting I would pick up something at a deli. But little did she know she would be dining on some of my homemade goodies like Smoked Salmon on Field Greens and Orzo Salad with Chickpeas. While I was trying to impress her a little, it was also true that I ate like that pretty much all the time. I guess it worked, we’re still going on picnics together!

me on the trail at Lincoln State Park

me on the trail at Lincoln State Park

I got enough of the smaller tomatoes last week to start dehydrating them. We are almost out of our stores of them, and it is a great way to preserve the tomatoes. After drying, we will package them up with our FoodSaver and stick them in the freezer. They keep well for more than a year that way, as opposed to leaving them on a shelf in the pantry. That’s Juliet in the below photo, cut into quarters for drying.

Juliet tomatoes ready for dehydrating.

Juliet tomatoes ready for dehydrating.

I’ve been making lacto-fermented vegetables again. My first batch this year was a jar of kohlrabi pickles. I cut the kohlrabi into about 3/8″ sticks before packing into a quart jar and covering with brine. I let them ferment at room temperature for five days, then tested one to see how it tasted. My wife and I both loved the salty crunch of the mildly-fermented kohlrabi, so I put the jar in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation.

lacto-fermented kohlrabi pickles

lacto-fermented kohlrabi pickles

Next I made some sauerkraut, one batch using cabbage and the other with shredded kohlrabi. For these two I mixed each with salt (2% of the vegetable weight) before putting in the jars. You can read about the process I used here: Homemade Sauerkraut. I’ve not tried using kohlrabi before, but after the great taste of the kohlrabi ‘pickles’ I thought it might make some tasty kraut too.

jars of Kohlrabi and Cabbage kraut

jars of Kohlrabi and Cabbage kraut

The blueberries are continuing to roll in. Every day my wife goes out and harvests the little blue jewels. She’s hauled in 38 pounds of them so far, and they’re not done producing yet. I eat some every day for breakfast, and there will be lots in the freezer to enjoy when they are done for the year.

daily blueberry harvest

daily blueberry harvest

I’ll close with a photo of some of the calendula flowers I’ve been harvesting and drying. These will get used for soap and lotions, and I use them to make Calendula Infused Oil. I gave away quite a few seeds last year and I hope they are doing as well for other folks as they are doing here for us. It’s an easy to grow annual with so many beneficial properties. And the varieties I grow have been selected for a high resin content for medicinal uses

calendula flowers

calendula flowers

To see what other gardeners are digging, drying, harvesting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne graciously hosts Harvest Mondays. And many thanks Daphne for keeping this going every week!

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Homemade: Plantain Anti-Itch Salve and Lotion Bars

It’s summer, and that means many folks are spending a lot of time outdoors, me included. And often times that also means we get itchy from mosquito bites, poison ivy and other rashes and skin irritations. Fortunately, one way to get relief can often be found right in our own backyards.

Common Plantain, Plantago major

Common Plantain, Plantago major

Plantain is possibly the most widely distributed medicinal plant in the world, though many folks may not even know its name or its many uses. Plantain has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antihistamine qualities that make it quite useful externally. If you have it growing around your place, you can always just pluck a leaf, crush it, and apply it to the affected area of skin to get some relief.

harvest of plantain from our back yard

harvest of plantain from our back yard

For the last few years, my wife and I have been making our own anti-itch salve using the natural healing properties of this common backyard ‘weed’. It’s handy to have on hand, and a great natural way to stop those minor itches.

Plantain Anti-itch Salve

Plantain Anti-itch Salve

But before we can make a salve, we need to infuse the plantain leaves in oil, which can then be used by itself on the skin or to make other products like this salve. You can read about how I do it here: Homemade Plantain Infused Oil. My current favorite oil is sweet almond, but coconut oil and olive oil are also great choices. I like almond oil because it is easily absorbed into the skin, it has a neutral scent, and it has been found to have a calming effect on skin irritations. Of course, if you are allergic to almonds or other nuts you should choose another oil.

plantain infusing in oil

plantain infusing in oil

If you use the hot infusion method, you can easily make the infused oil in less than a day. With the cold infusion method it will take several weeks. Once the oil is infused and strained, you can make either a salve or lotion bars with it. You’ll need some beeswax, and some peppermint essential oil, though the EO is optional. You can also make it using a plant-based wax like carnauba, though you’ll need to use less wax that way. To make a salve, I use somewhere around 10% to 15% beeswax (and the rest oil) to thicken it enough to make application easier. For a lotion bar I use about 25% beeswax and 75% of infused oil. The more beeswax you add, the thicker the final mix but beeswax also adds ‘drag’ and too much can be unpleasant on the skin.

I like to add the peppermint essential oil not just because it smells good, but because it has anti-itch properties of its own. As with all essential oils, if you’ve never used peppermint EO on your skin you should test the diluted oil on a small patch of skin (on your upper arm, for instance) to make sure it doesn’t cause a problem. And EO’s should be used sparingly on young children, and not at all on infants.

ingredients for plantain anti-itch salve

ingredients for plantain anti-itch salve

The oil and beeswax mixture needs to be heated to melt the beeswax. You can use a double boiler or the microwave to do that. I usually measure out the oil and beeswax in a small glass Pyrex measuring cup and use the microwave, set for 50% power. I heat the mix for 60 seconds then stir a bit, then heat another 60 seconds or so if it hasn’t melted yet. Once the wax is all melted, you can add a few drops of the peppermint EO (if using) and give it all one more good stir before pouring into your containers. You can use any small glass, metal or plastic containers to hold the salve. The four ounce glass canning jars are a nice size to use. We have push up tubes specially made for lotion bars, but you can also use a silicone mold or muffin tins lined with muffin papers. Just make sure to let the salve or lotion bars cool completely before using.

pouring salve in lotion bar tube

pouring salve in lotion bar tube

Of course, as the saying goes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To keep bugs away you can try our Lemon Balm Lavender Bugs Off Spray as a natural insect repellent. But if all your best efforts fail when it come to avoiding the ‘itchies’, this salve is a great natural way to help ease the discomfort.

To see more about how to identify and find plantain, read Saturday Spotlight: Plaintain.

This post was shared at  Green Thumb Thursday , Simple Lives Thursday, Old-Fashioned Friday and Natural Family Friday.

Posted in Health, Homemade | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments