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Jan 062011
 

Samara Botane has embraced a number of changes to lower our carbon footprint and hold to our commitment of stewardship and ecology. You can see the progress we’ve made here, including eco-policies we have put into place in the last several years.

christmas tree2One of the small things we do personally each year has been to steam distill the twigs/needles from our Christmas tree.  This gives us healthful aromatic products that serve us throughout the coming year, extending the precious benefits of the tree.  How easily Westerners quickly discard their  trees, perhaps with no realization of the years of growth and energy Nature has invested on our behalf.  I hope you will consider exploring the additional uses and benefits, beyond the magical decoration for the holiday season, and save some of those branches to make delightful and healthful products for yourself and your family.  This year, we will again be distilling the gorgeous Noble Fir that blessed our family this season and offering the hydrosol for sale after it has rested for a few weeks and passes scrutiny.  I decided to look for other ideas to share, in order to savor our Christmas trees, long after the season.

Firs, Pines and Spruces are the most preferred Conifers for use in aromatherapy, and in most culinary applications.  In this blogpost, I focus on Fir which includes Abies procera (Noble Fir) pictured,  Abies grandis (Grand Fir),  Abies balsamea (Balsam Fir), and Abies alba (White Fir).  Olfactory attributes as described in perfumery for Firs are: strongly balsamic, slightly fatty-oily reminiscent of a pine forest and fruity-balsamic undertones.  There are subtle olfactory nuances for each species. Chefs, like Rene Redzepi of Copenhagen describe Fir in culinary terms as  having a pungent, citrusy flavor with green-minty backnotes.

If you do not have distillation equipment, you can make a simple aromatic herbal infusion by simmering the chopped needles (ratio: equal parts fresh water to needles, but make sure needles are covered completely by water)  in a covered pot on the stove for 10-20 minutes, reduce heat and let cool in tightly covered pot to avoid loss of aromatic oils.  Your infusion can be used to make simple herbal syrup of medium thickness (add equal parts of your infusion and organic sugar, bring to a boil stirring frequently, reduce heat and simmer until candy thermometer reaches at least 185 degrees, but no hotter than 220 degrees.  You want to ensure the sugar is completely dissolved, but mixture does not turn to candy.  Allow the syrup to cool gradually and do not refrigerate until entirely cool.

You can glaze a sponge cake for an unusual dessert sure to delight guests, or use this pungent syrup for a tasty fish or mussels dish to top rice.  Native Americans often prepared fish wrapped in Pine needles, cooked over an open fire.  You can grind needles with a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder dedicated to herbs and mix with other savory herbs, salts and peppers for a tasty mixture for soups and stews.  Experiment and share your favorite ideas back with us!

The infusion, as well as the ground botanical, can be added to a bath along with sea salts and a few drops of Fir essential oil for a reviving soak.  You can make an aromatic spray for your home or car with the infusion, again adding a few drops of the essential oil for strength.  The dried botanical is also a lovely incense, burned on charcoal.

herbal syrups 402x229I made a few herbal syrups towards the end of the growing season.  They were great gifts for friends and family.  These include Spearmint, Orange, Lavender and Rugosa Rose.  All but the Orange were from my garden.  Pictured at right, they are made with organic sugar, with no added color, but strengthened with a few drops of the requisite essential oil.  We are offering one of each as a bonus to our Facebook group members – the first four to submit orders of $100 or more with the Coupon Code will receive a 5-oz. bottle, randomly chosen.  You can join the Samara Botane Facebook Group here to get details.   Take a look at other aromatic offerings at our website here.

We will be holding another Treasure Hunt in the coming months, and watch for Rob’s upcoming report on aromaconnection exploring the affects of climate change on aromatic plants and crops.

I and the rest of the staff at Samara Botane welcome the New Year, bracing for its challenges.  We wish you a very good twenty-eleven and remind you to use your aromatics, especially for stress and anxiety, sleeplessness and combating pollen and viral pollution.

Inhale Deeply and Breathe . . . Breathe . . . Peace.
Marcia

 Posted by at 11:43 pm
Mar 242010
 

easter-egg-dyeing_242x158 Long before there was Easter, the egg was regarded as a symbol of new life and the advent of spring.  The decoration of eggs became an art form centuries ago and continues today as a delightful craft and enjoyable children’s activity as a precursor to the “hunt” for eggs and candy, enjoyed by children around the world.  Some of the historical techniques for coloring or decorating eggs include:

Etching:  This technique can be traced back to Macedonia and involves first dying the egg, applying a layer of wax in design, then bleaching off the color leaving only the wax-covered areas with color.
Krashanky:  This is one of the traditions coming out of the Ukraine and the word means ‘color’.  Krashanky eggs are dyed a solid, brilliant color, often red to symbolize the blood shed by Christ on the cross.
Eggs_Pysanky2_248x225 Pysanky:  If you have never seen a Pysanky egg, you are missing a beautiful artistic craft.  I was gifted one at the World’s Fair in 1972 by one of our participants and it graced the windowsill in my kitchen for many years before it eventually cracked and had to be thrown away.  The term Pysanky means to write.  Intricate designs are drawn in wax on the eggs, a process similar to batik.  The eggs are then dyed many colors.  There are many regional designs and color selections around the various regions of the Ukraine.
Egg_Original_Faberge Eggs Gold_207x238 Fabergé:  Undoubtedly the most famous and expensive decorated eggs known are those created by the Russian jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé in the 1800’s.  Made of gold, silver and jewels and opening up to reveal tiny figures of people, animals, plants or buildings, a total of 57 eggs were made.  They are now artifacts in museums across the world. The picture at left is the very first one made.  A glimpse into a stunning Fabergé exhibit in 2001 can be viewed here.

Binsegraas:  This Pennsylvania Dutch tradition is not widely practiced today, but involved wrapping the pith of binsegraas (a type of rush) in coils glued to eggs.  Then interesting shapes of calico cloth were pasted on the egg.  The Polish people have a similar tradition, using yarn formed into elaborate coils.

There are other forms of egg decorating that include gluing sequins, beads, flowers and bits of decoration onto blown eggs.  Blown eggs are also used for a cut-out diorama of a little scene viewed through the cut-out section.  In pioneer days, eggs were wrapped in calico or madras cloth, then boiled so the water released the dyes into the shells.  Since most fabric is colorfast, you will rarely see this today.

My favorite activity around the approach of Easter is to gather natural materials and ingredients to make colored Easter eggs with leaf and flower imprints.  This is a favorite tradition started when my girls were little and now carried on with the grandchildren.

Here are materials to gather to make the natural dye, arranged by color they will produce in final dyed egg:
Brown and tan:  Outer layers of onions, black/green tea, coffee, black walnut hulls
Yellow:  Tumeric, cumin, saffron, lemon rinds
Orange:  Paprika, chili powder, carrots
Red:  Fresh cranberries, cherries, raspberries, Spanish onion skins
Purple and blue: Blueberries, boiled red cabbage leaves, beets
Green: Spinach
Grey or slightly lavender:  Hibiscus flowers

Combine the dye source with 1 Tablespoon vinegar and cold water in a saucepan.  There are two different methods.  You can boil the eggs and dyes separately, strain the dye and add hard-boiled eggs in the shell to the hot liquid and let it soak until it reaches the desired hue.  Or, you can wrap uncooked eggs and cook them in the dye as they are being colored.  With the former method, if the eggs need to soak for more than 2 hours to reach the desired deepness of color, you may want to move them to the refrigerator if you will be eating them. Generally, however, natural dyes are going to create more earth-like subdued colors.

Here are the things you want to have on hand:
Botanicals2_298x230 Fresh herb, plant and flower cuttings.  The smaller the better, however, wrapping a large fern that covers an entire egg is a stunning design when finished.  Thinner, flat items are easiest to secure tightly.  Use your imagination. Dandelion flowers will impart a bright yellow splotch in the finished egg, adding a whimsical touch.  Other fresh botanicals will add a bit of their own color, along with imprinted texture and form.  It’s fun to let the process itself randomly influence the outcome.  Children love to do this; it’s biochemistry and art all in one . . . plus you get beautiful eggs to add Eggs_Natural1_238x235jpgto the Easter hunt or to share.
Pantyhose or cheesecloth, cut in squares that can be tied with wire or rubber bands to snugly keep plant material in place.  If re-using nylon squares or cheesecloth, be sure to rinse between eggs.  You’ll want a slotted spoon to turn and remove the eggs while they are in the dye bath, and you’ll want a couple of brown paper bags cut and laid flat to place eggs on to dry.

Here are some tips:  Older eggs work best, buy them at least a week before boiling as newer eggs are hard to peel.  I think white eggs take the natural dyes better, plus you can create additional designs with wax to add bright white to the creation before putting on leaves and flowers. Shine up Eggs_botanical_Easter1_209x253 finished eggs when they are dry with a little olive oil rubbed in.  Eat those eggs!  Don’t waste them – make deviled eggs, egg salad or use in a salad.  Be sure to keep them refrigerated if you will be eating them.  Most of all, have fun, and encourage your children to experiment; you’ll learn new ideas from them.  If you do this project this year, send useaster_eggs_onion_skin_201x208 pictures of your creations attached as a .jpg in an email: samara@wingedseed.com, including your current mailing  address and we’ll send an aromatic surprise back.

Happy Easter and Spring!

 Posted by at 7:02 pm
Jan 152010
 

I put my arms around him yes
and drew him down to me so he could
feel my breasts all perfume yes
and his heart was going like mad
and yes I said yes I will Yes.
James Joyce

According to the New Advent Encyclopedia Section, there were at least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs. One is described as a priest, another as a bishop and the third suffered in Africa with a number of companions, although nothing further is known. The popular, and now modern, customs associated with Saint Valentine’s Day have their origins in conventional belief in the geographical regions of England and France during the Middle Ages. This belief stems from the observation that half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair.
Thus, in Chaucer’s Parliment of Foules,
For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s Day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”

For this reason, the day was looked upon as specially consecrated to lovers and the proper occasion for writing love letters and sending tokens to one’s object of affection. The French and English literatures are rife with allusions to the practice in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Those who chose each other under these circumstances called each other their Valentines.

One romantic legend, according to History.com contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. Emperor Claudius II believed that single men made better soldiers and outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine defied Claudius after realizing the injustice of the decree and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

The oldest valentine in existence is thought to be a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the tower of London in 1415. Valentine greetings and tokens of affection were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, although written valentines didn’t appear until after 1400. The first commercial valentine in the United States is attributed to Esther A. Howland who made elaborate creations with lace, ribbons and colorful pictures, known as ‘scrap’.  The scanned image at right is one of several elaborate, lacy valentines belonging to my long deceased great grandmother.
A typical verse:
I send you this, with hope and fear
With hope that you will tender be;
Yet all the while, I tremble dear,
Lest you should not be fancy-free
I could not bear the hopeless fate
To hear the cruel words – too late.

Would that we could have such tender Romeos today to bare these fragile inner feelings and show such deep emotional love. Certainly not in this age of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Resident Evil 4.

In Roman mythology, Cupid (meaning ‘desire’) is the god of erotic love and beauty, aka Amor, and son of goddess Venus and god Mercury. We have exploited this young deity in art, literature, confection, adornment and perfume at this time of year, some would say to excess. And, while we moderns are probably not going to participate in the elaborate ancient celebration of Lupercalia, which occurred in ancient Rome on February 15, and when some of the weirdest customs were indulged, it is perhaps another precursor to our modern celebratory immersion in romance and fertility.

Those of us who garden in the northern climes can’t ignore the fact that February 14 is also the approximate time for the beginning of the Spring thaw, another significant allusion to fertility.

While we may never know all of the facts of the history that lies behind Valentines Day; most of us are smitten with the idea of heartfelt expression and indulgence to bestow favor and admiration on those we care deeply about or wish to have a romantic relationship with.

Any expression of universal love in light of the overwhelming humanitarian disaster in Haiti must include our commitment to the brave and beautiful people of that impoverished country.  During the first quarter of 2010, Samara Botane will donate 10% of all all sales (not just web sales) to Partners in Health.  PIH works to bring modern medical care to poor communities in nine countries around the world. Their work has three goals: to care for patients, to alleviate the root causes of disease in their communities, and to share lessons learned around the world. Partners in Health has been in Haiti for over 20 years and its hospitals are untouched by the recent earthquake. They have been the first medical response to the disaster and their doctors and medical personnel are primarily Haitian citizens. Based in Boston, PIH employs more than 11,000 people worldwide, including doctors, nurses and community health workers. The vast majority of PIH staff are local nationals based in the communities we serve.

Valentine Gift Suggestions

Amoretto™ Parfum Mist, 7.5 ml in brushed silver atomizer

Soft florals of Rose Otto and Ylang Ylang with hints of zesty Citrus, grounded with Vetiver & Sandalwood and a mere whisper of Black Pepper, Clary Sage and Juniper make this a lovely fragrant poem of innocent love. This fine perfume is a 30% perfume composition in certified organic perfumers alcohol, with moderate silage and a uniquely soft, sweet scent for young and old alike. Festively packaged in chic acetate pillow with sizzle fill.

Relax in the tub and treat your skin to nourishment and renewal

Renew Milk & Honey Bath Ensemble

The additive dissolves in your bath to create a beautiful skin softening therapy – a few drops of the essential oil blend make it aromatically restful while adding additional skin healing, and the aromatherapy body lotion completes the experience of skin rejuvenation and renewal. Packaged in a charming little reuseable suitcase. Delightful luxury for the love of your life.

Please explore our website for lovely naturally fragrant gifts and indulgences for your loved ones. If you have difficulty finding what you are looking for, or need some ideas or explanations, or want to put together a custom gift, you can always email or call me.

Free shipping to you or your recipient on orders placed before February 8th, with an additional bonus gift for the purchaser of one of our recipe booklets for refreshing skin, hair and body treatments and aromatherapy ideas for health and beauty.

Sending fragrant thoughts your way for this beautiful Valentine’s Day! Share your love abundantly with all you touch.

Marcia and the Samara Botane crew

 Posted by at 6:56 pm