Today is gorgeous! If only every South Carolina summer day could be in the 80’s instead of the 90’s! I cannot believe it’s already mid-July - where did the past six months go? It’s Sunday and I’m spending some time on the back porch of the old cottage on our property. Our rescue kitties – Gracie (mother), Dahlia, and Poppy (daughters) – have all been spayed and are now allowed outside during the day. They are so adorable and very cute as they play “chase the shadows and anything that moves”.
The wind chime on this porch is singing slightly out of tune because of the dirt or mud "dobbers" that have taken up residence, but it’s still pleasant sounding as it sings with the gentle breeze.
As many of you know, we were “on break” during the week of July 6-10. During my break, I had time to finish 6 months of filing that had piled up, a good bit of manufacturing, a good bit of warehouse reorganizing, some website editing, some office cleaning, a little reading, a little R&R, and other fun and good stuff. The “other fun and good stuff” included making some Blackberry Jam and Blueberry Jam! We are now getting quart after quart of blueberries and blackberries every day. I eat blueberries on my Muesli cereal in the morning. I snack on blueberries and blackberries during the day. Every afternoon I look forward to my refreshing Blueberry Smoothie! I am literally loaded with antioxidants and feel very healthy these days!!
I’ve mentioned this recipe before, but will talk about it again because it's so good! I also wanted to remind folks that smoothies can be made with fresh or frozen berries! I make my Blueberry Smoothie with about a cup of either fresh or frozen blueberries, ½ to one whole banana, about ½ cup vanilla yogurt and ice. I put everything in a blender with some exquisite Dances With Bees honey! Dances With Bees is located in Georgia and is the best honey I’ve ever tasted! My husband (Earl), daughter (Kim), and I love this honey and eat it on our cereal and just about everything! So delicious!
Anyway, back to the Blueberry Jam. I wanted to report that the Blueberry Jam was a bit of an experiment. I made this batch from frozen blueberries and wondered if it would be as tasty as with fresh – it was! So now I will be freezing the berries to make jam (and those yummy smoothies) this winter when I have more time - or at least that's the plan for now.
My basil is lush and healthy and ready for harvesting. Later today I will be making the first batch of Basil pesto this season. Pesto is so tasty on pasta or in soups or almost anything. I started several Basil varieties from Organic Certified seed this year – Sweet Genovese, Poppy Joe, Lettuce Leaf and Lemon. All but the lemon have done so well! The lemon basil thrived, but went to seed so quickly. No amount of pinching would delay it so I just let it flower and made the bees happy!
All spring, I’ve been pinching bits of the basil for cooking with vegetables or to use fresh on sandwiches or in salads. I made a delicious sandwich with one of the big Lettuce Leaf Basil’s leaves and avocado and cheese – very tasty! Basil is probably one of my most favorite kitchen herbs. It’s best used fresh and cooked gently. I’ll add it during the last five minutes of cooking. Unlike some herbs, Basil doesn’t dry well. To me, it’s almost tasteless when dried. I like to mince fresh basil and mix with olive oil into a paste and freeze. I usually put the “paste” into a small quart size freezer bag, flatten and freeze. This paste is similar to pesto without the cheese, garlic and pine nuts. Once frozen, the basil/olive oil can be broken off as needed for cooking and the fresh taste of basil can be enjoyed all winter! The pesto that I make today will go into ice cube trays to be frozen. Once frozen, the cubes will be put into a freezer bag for later use.
Later this week we will be distilling our Basil Hydrosol. Basil Hydrosol makes a lovely, aromatic addition to formulas for hair or skin care. It's particularly useful for acne or problem skin. I'll share some more information and new formulas soon!
We are currently preserving our hydrosols with Cosmocil CQ. We have conducted three years of testing with our hydrosols that are preserved with Cosmocil CQ and the efficacy is outstanding. Cosmocil CQ is a very gentle preservative and is safe to use around mucous membranes such as the eye area. While we are extremely pleased with Cosmocil CQ, we are looking for other preservative options that will work as well and that will allow us to certify our Hydrosols and Botanical Extracts with the USDA NOP program. Many people do not realize that it is very, very difficult to certify cosmetic products as organic with the USDA NOP – their requirements are very explicit and stringent. The product must contain USDA NOP certified ingredients.
If the product contains ingredients that are not USDA NOP certified, those ingredients MUST be included in the USDA NOP “allowed” listing. For details, please refer to the USDA NOP Standards which can be found on their website.
Fortunately, we have identified one new natural preservative that may make it possible for us to offer USDA NOP certified botanical extracts and hydrosols. Since we are in the experimental stages, I won’t report any details at this time. But hopefully by next year, we will have good news to report regarding the USDA NOP and these experiments. I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted!
We have also been doing quite a bit of experimenting with the new natural preservative from Active Microsystems – Leucidal Liquid. The manufacturer has challenge test data (as noted on our website), but as we all know, each and every formulation is different and must be tested to determine efficacy. I am thrilled to report that our preliminary microbial testing on one cream formula that includes Leucidal Liquid is excellent! The formula we used is identical to the Luscious Lavender Natramulsion formula that can be found in our website Formulary. I used 2% Leucidal Liquid in the formula with 1% Coviox T50 – I reworked the water percentage so the formula would balance. The manufacture date on this batch is 050809. The first APC/yeast/mold was conducted on June 19 after normal usage. The results were: yeast/mold less than 10 cfu/gram and bacteria less than 1 cfu/gram - excellent! I'll be sending samples to the lab over the next 6 months to a year and will report on the results.
We are also testing Leucidal Liquid as part of a preservative system in our Botanical Extracts and Complexes. The results are not yet in, but I am very optimistic. I'll be sure to let everyone know how the testing turns out.
I am very pleased with Leucidal Liquid and and feel very encouraged with the results so far!
Well, I’ve moved from the back porch of the cottage to the front porch of The Herbarie. The wind chimes here sing in key. It’s so peaceful and I love looking at my happy Zinnias, birds, butterflies and bees, but I just realized that time is flying and it’s already afternoon and I’ve not yet made Pesto! I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer – I’ll be back in touch soon!