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DIY Antioxidant Face Mask

cucumber and oatmeal with mortar and pestle

Besides eating them, the best way to benefit your skin with antioxidant vitamins is to use them topically as facial treatments. Masks and scrubs made with antioxidant-rich fruit and veg can help give you a brighter, smoother complexion.

Mash the fruit or veg and use alone or with a little olive oil as a facial mask, or add oatmeal, cornmeal, clay, or rice powder to make it a scrub.

Look for:

  • vitamin A: Encourages healthy skin cell production. Smoothes wrinkles.
  • vitamin C: Evens skin tone and contributes to collagen production. May help prevent and treat ultraviolet (UV)-induced photodamage.
  • vitamin E: Moisturizes and softens.

Try these:

Banana: Emollient, cleans pores. Vitamins A, C & E

Cucumber: Refreshes and hydrates. Vitamins A &

Mango: Prevents collagen damage. Vitamin C & E

Melon: Moisturizing. Vitamins A & C

Orange: Exfoliates. Helps dry out acne. Vitamin C

Strawberry: Removes excess sebum. Vitamin C

Tomato: Unclogs pores and balances oil production. Vitamins A & C

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Tea, before the cuppa

Tea bud and leaves. Tea plantations, Sri Lanka

Have you ever seen Tea (Camellia sinensis) growing? I never realized the Tea plant is an evergreen shrub (to small tree) that can be harvested for 40-100 years, depending on the variety.

The young shoots, leaves and buds, are usually picked by hand as machinery is too rough on the tender leaves and may damage them.

There are four basic categories of Tea- white, green, oolong, and black-  and each uses a different method of processing after harvest for its different qualities. For green Tea, the leaves are quickly heated, either steamed or pan-fried, then dried to prevent oxidation of the leaves. This allows the Tea to retain its green color and fresh-picked flavor.

To contrast, black Tea is allowed to fully oxidize before being heat-processed and dried, turning the leaves black/brown and greatly changing their flavor.

tea harvest

The biggest Tea-producing countries are China, India, Sri Lanka and Kenya, representing 75% of world production. But cultivation in the U.S. is possible!

We’ve actually been growing Tea here for a long time. The first recorded successful commercial cultivation was back in 1772 near Savannah, GA.

A 2017 NPR article, “Pinkies up! A Local Tea Movement is Brewing!“, reports 60 Tea farms in 15 states. Though still a niche market with premium prices, farmers are working to expand production to meet the growing enthusiasm for domestically-produced teas.

“While U.S. tea-makers are not as skilled as those in more established tea regions, their teas still have a distinct character found nowhere else in the world, thanks to the unique climates and environments on these U.S. farms.”  Rie Tulali, spokeswoman for the U.S. League of Tea Growers

Growing a plant is the best way to know it, so growing Tea is now on my list of to-do’s. Not on a commercial scale, and definitely not in my cold Massachusetts garden, but hopefully one day soon I’ll find a way to have one of these beloved little trees to call my own. Promise I’ll share a cuppa with you!

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Perennial sunflowers you can eat

closeup of jerusalem artichoke flowers

Our last harvest of the year, Sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus, also called Jerusalem artichoke).

A species of sunflower native to eastern North America, Sunchokes were originally cultivated as a food source by Native Americans. Their tubers can be dug until the ground freezes and with proper storage can last through Winter.

Europeans must’ve really taken to Sunchokes after trying them during the colonization of the east coast. They were shipped back home and are now more commonly eaten there than they are here in the states.

Normally tan/brown-skinned, we grow a variety that was bred in France to have red skin with fewer bumps. “Tompinambour” is the French name for Sunchoke- you might find them in a store under that name.

Sunchokes are rich in inulin, a starch-like carbohydrate that is diabetic-friendly and a probiotic. They are also high in fiber, iron, and potassium.

Prepared like potatoes, they can be boiled, sauteed or roasted. No need to peel, just give them a good scrub. The flavor can be compared to artichoke with the texture of water chestnut.

sunchoke tubers

 

Here are some easy recipe ideas I’ve found on the web:

* Sorry to recommend a recipe I haven’t actually tried, but I’ve only just stumbled across the Spiced Rum Jerk. It looks delicious! Hawkeye and I love anything Caribbean so I think I can safely say even before tasting it this one will be a favorite.

 

One thing you should know before eating too many is that Sunchoke’s unflattering nickname, “Fartichoke”, is well-deserved. They can cause gas. They don’t seem to bother everyone, but you won’t know until you try! A good first test might be to mix and mash them half and half with potato.

 

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The answer? Mango butter.

ripe mangoes on a tree

When you want one effective, natural bodycare ingredient that can be used many different ways, most people think of Shea butter, right? But if you have nut or latex allergies, you probably steer clear as Shea butter has been known to cause reaction.

A perfect substitute is Mango butter, the fatty acid that’s expeller-pressed from the seeds of mangoes. Similar to Shea butter, it’s semi-solid at room temperature and melts on contact with skin, quickly adding moisture to soften and soothe without feeling greasy.

(–> here’s a cool video showing a woman breaking open a mango seed and scooping out the butter- unfortunately, I don’t see a way to get subtitles in English so I don’t know what she’s saying, but it’s pretty fun to watch)

Mango butter is popular in beauty creams as it plumps and tightens skin, which can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, but the attraction doesn’t stop there. It has a long history of use for many kinds of skin irritations including sunburn, rashes, chapped lips, and insect bites. Mango butter also offers a bit of topical UV protection and makes a great deep-moisturizing treatment for dry scalp and damaged hair. You can use ‘as is’ or blend with other butters and oils.

mango butter

Mango butter may feel light in texture, but a clinical study on foot ailments proved it’s a heavyweight when it comes to healing. The study examined Mango butter’s reduction in amplitude of cracked heels, pain and bleeding through the cracks, degree of healing, skin re-construction, soothing, skin rehydration and action as antiseptic against the growth of resident microorganisms. It was shown to have bacteriostatic, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity, and reduce roughness of the skin while repairing and protecting.

(the study used animal subjects, as well as human, which to my mind is ridiculous and unnecessary but that’s the scientific method for ya- the results are still interesting)

So whether you need to pack lightly for a trip or just want to declutter your bathroom cabinet, Mango butter is the perfect answer to that burning question, “How many products do we really need?”.

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Immerse Yourself in Plant World

clawfoot bathtub

Guess we need reminding, since life can be so distractingly busy: To be healthy, we need to spend time outdoors.

Nature is good for you, and many studies have been done to lend scientific proof. This article, “How Nature is good for our health and happiness“, explores a 30-day study where people felt better both physically and mentally after being outside every day. It also talks about how feeling that connection to Nature motivates people to protect it, helping the health of the environment.

But what can you do when you’re stressed, frazzled, grumpy, overwhelmed or burnt out, and seriously do not have the time or energy to get out for a good, long walk? Bring the plants to you! Give yourself a relaxing time-out and take a nice soak in a herbal bath. They soothe and refresh body and mind.

This post gives directions on how to make your tub into a big mug of herbal tea and has a few recipe ideas. Making up your own bath blends, or using only one herb at a time, is a great way to experience and feel closer to the plants. Here are some to start with:

Calendula flowers: no scent in the bath but these flowers are well-known for their skin calming and anti-inflammatory properties.

Chamomile flowers: worth it for the sweet appley aroma alone, it’s also soothing to sensitive or inflamed skin as well as achy muscles.

Comfrey leaves: no aroma, this herb is super emollient and encourages cell regeneration.

Elder flowers: fragrant and very soothing for skin irritations.

Lavender flowers: floral/herbal aroma, cleanses and calms skin, soothing to bruises, insect bites, and minor wounds or sores.

Lemon balm leaves: a light lemony/herbal scent, refreshing and uplifting.

Lemongrass leaves: an earthy/lemony aroma, astringent and stimulating.

Marshmallow leaves: no fragrance, comforting and soothing for irritated, chapped, or sun-damaged skin.

Rose flowers: light aroma, mildly astringent and cleansing, cell regenerator.

Sage leaves: gentle aroma, stimulating to skin.

As you get more familiar with how different herbs look, smell, feel, and how they make you feel, you’ll notice becoming more aware of the plants around you. It only takes one little dandelion beaming its sunshiny face through a crack in the sidewalk to make you realize the natural world is right there with you, despite all the concrete.

Being close to Nature, and exploring our part in it as humans, is one of the most important things we can do for both our and our planet’s health. Connect with the plants more, in whatever ways you can.

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Is there a Hoophouse under that Cucumber vine?

Yes, wow! Bolivian Cucumber (‘Achocha’ or ‘Caihua’) grows like no cucumber I’ve ever seen. Planted on one side of the hoophouse, it grew across the top to the other side, then out both sides and over the top on the outside.

We’d never heard of Bolivian Cucumber (native to Bolivia/Peru) until we were given a few seeds last year. We grew them this year for fun, just to check it out, having no idea what a beautiful monster it would grow up to be.

So vigorous! Covered in flowers which attracted all kinds of insects, then loaded with little cucumbers. It slowed down during the heat of Summer luckily, or we’d have been overrun both with vine and fruit.

achocha in basket

The cucumbers are different, smaller and not as juicy. A bit sweeter though, I think. If you let them grow to maturity, they become hollow and are typically stuffed like peppers and roasted.

Medicinally, Bolivian cucumber is used to treat high blood pressure, high blood-cholesterol levels, arteriosclerosis, circulatory problems, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, tonsillitis, and as a remedy for intestinal parasites.

(Again, wow. All that from a humble cucumber.)

While researching, I found a reference to the fruit and leaves being boiled in olive oil and used topically as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic. I haven’t found any further topical-use information, but I suspect it may be a language-barrier thing with me not speaking Spanish.

achocha, cut up with seeds removed

I picked a big handful of the best leaves and all the cucumbers growing outside the hoophouse yesterday, before they get hit by frost, to try making an oil.

If you’re as intrigued as I am with this plant, check out the write-up at ‘Plants For A Future’, one of my favorite online plant resources. Than visit John from Growingyourgreens.com’s garden to see his Bolivian Cucumber patch in this video with great visuals of the plant plus growing and eating information (and very cool, he grows a different variety than what I have- different leaf shape and spiky fruits!).

 

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50% off Gardener’s Salve

Gardener’s Salve, for the dry, chapped, cracked, or irritated skin of working hands.

I’m updating this blend but have a few of the original left in stock, so I’m offering them at half-off regular price: $10.00 each while they last!

Packaged in a recyclable tin that was manufactured in the U.S. 1.75 oz (50 g) net wt. 


— Ingredients —

White Sage*: Anti-fungal, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory.

Comfrey^: Helps promote growth of new skin cells.

Echinacea^: Antibacterial, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory.

Plaintain*: Soothes inflammation and accelerates healing of wounds.

Meadowsweet*: Helps relieve muscle and joint pain.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil*: Conditions and moisturizes.

Virgin Coconut Oil*!: Highly emollient and moisturizing.

Watermelon Seed Oil: Light textured, highly moisturizing and emollient.

Candelilla Wax: Vegan substitute for beeswax, derived from the leaves of the Candelilla shrub. Softening and protective.

Essential Oils: A light, herbal-scented blend of Lavender and Frankincense.

 

* Certified Organic

^ Farm grown

! Fair Trade


These will be replaced by the new blend as soon as they’re gone. Head over to the store to get this special price while you can 🙂

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Surviving the change of season

closeup of bright yellow st. johnswort flowers

A belated Happy Autumn to you! And as if I wasn’t already feeling low enough about Summer’s end, the season change has brought me a throat virus.

My throat is like my early-warning signal . When I start getting run down, a sore throat is always the first symptom. If I pay attention to it (start going to bed on time, make sure I’m eating well, load up on herbal tea with elderberry syrup, take a hot soak in the tub), it usually resolves without becoming anything more than a sore throat.

But if I don’t pay attention and let it go for a couple days… Well, it worsens and I end up where I am today: headache, sick stomach, and a really sore throat with both tonsils swollen and sore.

Change of season is a time many people get sick, so it’s a good idea to keep a couple go-to remedies on hand. I mentioned elderberry syrup. It’s a proven cold and flu remedy and is pretty easy to find if you don’t make your own.

Calendula and St. Johnswort (pictured above) are helpful for many different complaints, including cold and flu, so I always have them around in various forms (dried, tinctured, infused oil, salves and creams).

Calendula tea can be used as a gargle to reduce inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat, which will ease a sore throat. Tincture can be substituted if you don’t have it dried.

St. Johnswort with its antiviral, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory properties is another great herb tea to gargle with, and is said to be especially useful for chronic sore throat. Again, substitute tincture if you don’t have the dried plant.

Drinking those teas is great too but may take an acquired taste. Try making a big batch of tub tea with Lavender or Chamomile added to the Calendula and St. Johnswort and treat yourself to a nice, long soak.

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Everything balm for everybody

Been working on new labels and new photos for our farm-made skin balms.

Hope I’m heading in the right direction with “everything” balms. Just seems like if you have to buy one product for your face, another for your cuticles, another for your feet (etc,), the only one getting real benefit is the manufacturer.

I like keeping things simple, and would rather have one product I can use for everything. So I’ve designed these balms to soothe and protect *all* your skin—face, hands, cuticles, elbows, knees, legs, and feet.

And coming soon is a new blend that will be aroma-free, containing no essential oils. Then we’ll have an everything balm for everybody.

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There she goes (reformulating) again

assortment of herbs with mortar and pestle

Maybe I make it harder than it has to be. But, you know, I want my skincare creations to be perfect and for me that means ingredients that are organic, fair trade, and from as close to home as possible.

Which means I have to say goodbye to Watermelon seed oil. I’m hooked on this oil! It’s light, it’s nutritious, so beautiful and so good for skin. Unfortunately, I can’t find it organic.

So I’m reformulating my balm recipes and bringing in organic Safflower oil and organic virgin Sunflower oil, two lovely oils I’ve worked with before but kindof forgot as I got caught up with the more exotic options.

The balm herbal blends I have now (Tulsi, Calendula, and Echinacea will stay the same, with a new one (Yarrow) being introduced for Holiday season later this year.

Perfection might be a lofty goal, but I have a reason: I never want you to have to worry when you put something I’ve made on your skin.