August Newsletter 2008

Hello Everyone!

Welcome to this month's Herbal Haven Newsletter.
I can’t believe we are already into August; this year seems to have flown by. We have finished with all the salad herbs for this season now, although we carried on producing them for longer than normal. The flea beetle appeared suddenly at the end of last month, a bit later than normal, it seems, and put paid to the rockets almost overnight. The horseradish was also reduced to the typical lace appearance caused by this beetle but we are able to cut this back and the new growth tends to be much better. I think most of our flea beetle problems come from the adults migrating from nearby oil seed rape crops. It is possible to control with chemicals but we choose not to. You can also use yellow sticky traps hung above the plants to reduce beetle numbers but you then catch all the beneficial insects along with butterflies and dragonflies.

Beetled Rocket

We have just returned from the Bakewell Show in Derbyshire. We have been going there with the herbs for over 10 years now and every year I forget to take a camera. Along the banks of the River Wye there is a stunning array of wild plants. The Hemp Agrimony in flower was particularly stunning. Comfrey was also growing in profusion, it loves the banks of rivers and streams. Another herb that enjoys this location is soapwort (saponaria officnalis) though it can also be found growing on waste ground and by hedgerows. We have a big patch growing locally close to a stream but next to a hedge in a lay-by area.

Soapwort Growing Wild

It has other common names such as bouncing bet, soaproot, latherwort and fullers herb. The roots and leaves of soapwort produce lather when boiled with water and this has been used in the past for washing clothes and wool. It is an effective fungicide helping to preserve cloth. I read somewhere that extracts of soapwort were found in samples taken from the Turin shroud. In the past it was also a popular treatment for venereal diseases; half an ounce taken daily was recommended for gonorrhea. I’m sure this treatment had some very unfavourable side effects as soapwort contains saponin glycoside which can cause violent gastro enteritis and a depressed immune system.

Soapwort Flowers

I went off with my secateurs and cut some of the soapwort that is growing locally. I would have liked to get some root too but didn’t want to dig up the plant. I boiled six ounces of the leaves and flowers in two and a half pints of water in each of two pans for twenty minutes. In one pan I used rain water and in the other, tap water. There was a difference but it was not what I expected. The tap water was greener in colour but produced more soapy bubbles than the rain water. Once the water had cooled a bit I strained it and then put a dirty dishcloth in each which I left to soak for a couple of hours before washing. A bit of vigorous rubbing later and I had two pans of suds, the tap water being the sudsiest, and two cleanish cloths that weren’t particularly green. They were never going to get washing machine clean but I was pleasantly surprised. It did a pretty good job on my hands, too, though gives them a squeaky feel. The only downside is the smell. It can’t be said that soapwort boiled in water smells very sweet – a bit cabbagey, I guess, hard to put your finger on it. I’m betting that in the days when people washed their garments in soapwort they were used to much worse smells; either that or they rinsed their washing in something sweet smelling.

Soapwort Washed Cloths

The weather seems to have collapsed this month. Gone are the high temperatures and sunshine of July. It’s ideal basil rotting weather so, if you have any in pots outside, it might be worth bringing them in. Don’t forget that lots of rain also washes fertilizers in the compost away, which means plants in pots will run out of feed more quickly. The plus side is not having to worry too much about them whilst you are away on holiday.

Well, I think that’s all for this now. Don’t forget that this month there is a rose bath oil sample being sent free with every internet order.

Enjoy the rest of the month,